While the numbers are hard to pin down, the reality is drivers don't make much when factoring out overhead costs.
SYDNEY -- Despite rising gas prices, a carbon tax, currency fluctuations and economic troubles abroad, Penguin Cars & Limousines has managed to grow from two to 14 vehicles in just six years of serving Sydney and other major Australian cities.
While the Australian chauffeured market ranks smaller than that of the U.S. and Europe, Penguin owner Kris Korkian draws inspiration and ideas from other operators he meets each year at the International LCT Show in Las Vegas. Last year, Penguin introduced SUV chauffeured service into the Sydney market with success.
What is unique about chauffeured services in your nation compared to the U.S.?
For the most part, they are the same style of operations, but we have a much smaller industry. The type of vehicles differ from those in the U.S.; mostly sedans, MPV vans and buses, but fewer stretch limousines and very few SUVs. The vehicles are more white and silver instead of all black.
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What are key challenges of your service area/region?
Cars are expensive. For example, an S Class is worth about $200,000 and a second-hand one with low mileage and about three years old still costs about $120,000. Illegal operators are always a problem. There are way too many single-car operators without work who rely on “touting” at the airports. They bring industry rates down because their overheads are nowhere near those of multi-car operators.
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What qualities do you look for in a U.S. affiliate?
Reliability and availability 24/7. They must have similar procedures (uniformed chauffeurs, bottled water) and safety policies in place. Use modern technology like GPS tracking and Wi-Fi. They must provide quick quotes/confirmations, driver details, and consistent fair pricing. Our clients must feel the same way as if getting car service at home.
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What specific rules or procedures do U.S. operators need to be aware of when affiliating with operators in your nation?
You must be careful whom you choose. There are always companies on the web with good looking websites and cheap rates. But many of those don’t necessarily have all your requirements, safety procedures, licenses and proper insurances in place. Deal with people who you personally met with and don’t put your clients in someone’s car who you have never met before.
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What are your primary business challenges?
The high exchange rate of the Australian dollar. It used to be worth 60-70 cents to the U.S. dollar about three to four years ago and it is now slightly higher than the U.S. dollar in value. Therefore, it is difficult for us to offer our international affiliates better rates. Other challenges: Rising petrol prices, the downturn of the European and U.S. economies, and our government has just implemented a new carbon tax starting July 1. We will feel the impact. We also are not able to afford many diesel cars because they are mostly European-made and expensive here.
What are your top-rented chauffeured vehicles?
Standard sedans (Holden/GM Caprice), premium sedans (Audi A8L, BMW 7 Series, Mercedes S Class), and MPV (Mercedes Viano). We introduced the SUV to the market last year (Mercedes GL Class) and they seem to become very popular now.
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What types of clients do you typically serve?
Corporate frequent travelers, travel agencies, cruise ships and airlines. We also handle university-subsidized foreign student transportations, and serve most major international limousine companies such as Tristar Worldwide.
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How much has your company grown in revenue and fleet size since 2006?
We had two sedans in 2006 and today we operate 14 vehicles. Our annual revenues have gone from $200,000 to $1.5 million.
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What does your driver/chauffeur training program involve?
Our in-house, tailored training program was developed with the help of U.S. and U.K. training and HR companies. Chauffeurs undergo three stages: 1-Orientation, 2-In class video training, and 3-On-the-road real-time demonstration with full-time trainer.
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What are the future plans for your company?
Growing our fleet to become as big as the U.K. and U.S. companies that I keep meeting with in my annual travels to trade shows in the U.S. This year, the launch of our new global services with a marketing campaign aimed to encourage our clients to book services outside Australia. Being far away from the rest of the world, our clients have quite a few stopovers when they travel. We would like to manage their itineraries by providing a “meet and greet” service in every airport they go to. The launch of our “On Time” Guarantee or the Ride is FREE through radio advertising.
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FAST FACTS: Business name: Penguin Cars & Limousines I Location: Sydney, Australia I Founded: 2005 I Owner: Kris Korkian I Main service regions: Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Perth I Vehicle types: sedans, premium sedans, MPV, SUV, van, bus and hybrid sedan I Fleet size: 14 I Total employees: 4 I Annual revenues ($U.S.): $1.5 million I Website: www.penguinlimo.com.au I Phone number: +61 2 94532229 / 24/7 Dispatch & Reservations: +61 4 14680211 I Email: [email protected]
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