Here are some sights and scenes from one wicked cool tradeshow.
LONDON — Paul Gibson had just completed an airport transfer and returned to the office of the chauffeured transportation service for which he worked when he found the company’s owner reading a newspaper of the UK taxi industry. Intrigued, Gibson asked why he was reading something not for the chauffeured car industry. “There is nothing else out there to read,” the owner replied. Gibson meditated on this and decided to produce a new publication for the UK chauffeured car industry, founding The Chauffeur Magazine in 2003.
UK Limo Industry’s Voice Piece
Before becoming a chauffeur, Gibson wrote and designed for a local car magazine. He used these skills, along with his ability to sell advertising, to publish the first issue of The Chauffeur Magazine within a few months. The magazine would focus on providing chauffeured vehicle reviews, industry news and a voice piece for legislation and licensing. Gibson handed out copies to other chauffeurs while he waited for his clients around London.
By meeting with other chauffeurs, Gibson found “the ideal opportunity to find stories, increase my knowledge of the industry, and distribute the magazine at the same time,” he recalls. Gibson got involved in the UK’s chauffeured car industry when he realized the car magazine he’d been writing for wasn’t going to be developed further by its parent company.
“I slowly came to the decision that I wanted to go alone,” Gibson says. “I knew I wanted to work with cars but didn’t really know how. Suddenly, I had the image of driving around in a suit in a top-of-the-range Bentley or Mercedes, so I looked into becoming a chauffeur. After a little homework, I found a couple of local businesses [that] were looking for drivers, so I made the big move and handed in my notice at the newspaper company I worked for. I became licensed by my local authority and was soon driving stretched limousines and executive chauffeur cars.”
His first limousine job didn’t go so well, as he crashed the vehicle into a railing outside a soccer stadium, he recalls. “Strangely, I still had a job,” he says.
The Chauffeur Magazine generated a large and loyal following, and vehicle manufacturers noticed the UK chauffeured transportation industry. In 2003, there were no chauffeur vehicle programs for the UK industry and now there are five.
“Some of the manufacturers have turned to us to find out what chauffeurs would want from a dedicated program,” Gibson says. “There still isn’t a perfect one on offer but at least a chauffeur can now get a better deal and service. It took us a while to convince them that the chauffeur can be a powerful messenger and usually travels with either a celebrity or a high powered executive in the car — so if he receives a special service then it gets passed on pretty quickly.”
The magazine’s early success helped Gibson launch a trade show in 2005. But then the economy turned sour and manufacturers froze their advertising budgets. Much like the North American chauffeured car industry, UK operators hung on longer to their vehicles, and U.S. coachbuilders saw no point in advertising anymore. The magazine lost a large source of revenue.
“Profits were down and we soon started to make a loss by publishing the magazine,” Gibson says. “Industry suppliers started to disappear without paying their advertising bills but we still had to produce a magazine for the industry. The time came when [the] sales staff was not able to generate income and the only option was for us to stop publishing a physical magazine and put everything online instead.”
The Chauffeur Magazine was reborn as TheChauffeur.com, which is still the UK industry’s leading source of domestic news.
UK Industry Outlook
“There is no doubt the industry has changed dramatically since we started out 10 years ago,” Gibson says. “Most operators [are now] looking for economical vehicles that still offer luxury travel. The price of fuel in the UK has forced many to downsize their fleets. The recession saw many clients cut the cost of traveling. Licensing and regulations also have reduced the marketplace. Although there has always been licensing as such and we support regulations to protect the public, the authorities have clamped down a lot on how companies operate, almost to a point where it has become too difficult for some. It’s certainly not easy to run a chauffeur company in the UK.”
But 2013 looks promising for the industry, Gibson says. “Vehicle sales are up and it seems as if people are spending more, so those operators with their heads screwed on are hopefully starting to recover from the major depression we experienced.”
2013 and Beyond
To celebrate its 10th anniversary, TheChauffeur.com launched a redesigned website in February and expanded its team to produce more online videos and fresh content for the site.
“Later on in the year, in November, when the magazine was born, we have a few surprises up our sleeves which I cannot tell you about right now,” Gibson says.
Here are some sights and scenes from one wicked cool tradeshow.
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