2013 Global Operator of the Year Karim Maachi, CEO of Paris-based Cardel Global, has expanded into neighboring Switzerland with the acquisition of Geneva-based Elegance Limousines, which will be rebranded to Cardel Global Switzerland.
PARIS — Geneva sits on the border of Switzerland and France. It’s about 254 miles from Paris and is one of the major financial centers in the world, ranking third in Europe — behind London and Zurich — by the Global Financial Centres Index, and ninth in the world. Put simply, it’s a market ripe for premium chauffeured services specializing in corporate travel.
Paris-based Cardel Global, the 2013 LCT Global Operator of the Year, has built a reputation for its expertise in executive transportation, especially corporate roadshows. CEO Karim Maachi told LCT that Cardel Global’s business volume in Switzerland has risen during the last four years. To strengthen his brand’s foothold in the Swiss market, Maachi acquired Geneva-based Elegance Limousines on Feb. 15. Elegance will be rebranded as Cardel Global Switzerland.
Read LCT profile of Karim Maachi and Cardel Global here.
“This merger is an opportunity for us to open local contracts with our French and European clients who have branches in Switzerland,” Maachi said. “We have already signed a huge contract with a private jet company based in Switzerland. Elegance Limousines had the local contract, and we were able to get their global contract based on the reputation of Cardel Global. There is a real synergy between Paris and Geneva, as well as between Cardel Global and Elegance Limousines.”
Managing the reigns of Cardel Global Switzerland is Patthey Moreno, previous owner of Elegance Limousines. He retains ownership shares in Cardel Global Switzerland and serves as general manager. Moreno will spearhead local sales efforts while Maachi will focus on global communications, marketing and sales.
Limousine service in the French and Swiss markets is still considered a luxury service and the two markets are similar with respect to customer profiles, Maachi said.
However, the Swiss market has stricter regulations, a strong transportation union, and a minimum rate so that operators cannot drop their rates. Maachi sees that as a double-edged sword because on one hand it closes the door to companies who want to compete through cheap prices, but on the other hand it makes competition based solely on the quality of service, which Maachi likes.
“We will grow very quickly,” Maachi says. “The acquisition included six vehicles and one dispatcher, but we will be making an important investment in the next weeks and months in terms of cars and logistical support.”
In both markets, Cardel Global uses Mercedes E-Class and S-Class sedans, along with Mercedes Viano MPVs. The vehicles feature 4MATIC all-wheel drive for snowy terrain. Cardel Global's French fleet has 37 vehicles.
Cardel’s revenue in the Swiss market is up 40% since Jan. 1, and the company’s goal is an increase of at least 30% for 2013, with hopes to be closer to 40%. “Our main goal is to become, like in France, the local reference for corporate transportation,” Maachi said.
— Michael Campos, LCT associate editor