From state labor rules to cannabis bans and LAX access, the Greater California Livery Association enjoys a golden chapter of regulatory successes.
However, Neil Spenta, president and CEO of American Corporate Sedan and Limousine in San Diego, proves it can be done through careful planning and collaboration with his chauffeurs.
For The Love of Tesla
Spenta has always been passionate about technology and electric cars in general, but the Tesla holds a special place in his heart. So much so that one of the reasons he moved to the U.S. from Australia in 2014 was because the vehicle is cheaper here than down under.
“I had a Tesla on order there, but then they released the pricing and it was so expensive because of taxes,” he explains.
Although he first worked for the Australian government in digital forensics, he decided he would begin his new life in the U.S. by buying a business and starting fresh. The company he took over was American Corporate Sedan and Limousine, which was originally a family-owned business started in 2001.
The owners decided to retire, and Spenta began his journey in the luxury ground transportation industry.
Spenta praises the Tesla’s low maintenance, affordable charging costs, and clean operation, which benefits the environment. “We were looking at European sedans and warranties were an issue. Tesla’s warranty covers all commercial use. On top of that, they have an eight-year unlimited warranty on the powertrain, which also includes commercial use. To have an unlimited mile warranty on any part of a vehicle is insane, especially for commercial use. The motors are also rated for a million miles.”
Benefits Outweigh The Costs
Spenta started the company with two Model S sedans, and then bought a 2016 Cadillac Escalade last year because he needed an SUV. He’s since retired the sedans, but keeps one on hand in case of an emergency. Now, the company uses two Tesla Model X SUVs and the Escalade.
“The Tesla is a fairly expensive luxury vehicle, but you’ll find the cost of ownership is quite low,” Spenta says. “When I purchased the company is April 2015, they had a couple of Town Cars and a Ford van. We were spending about $7,000-8,000 a month in gas and maintenance bills.”
While Teslas cost more than gas-powered vehicles, “Even though the Escalade was cheaper than our Model X SUVs, the money we are going to spend on gas and maintenance over the next five to eight years in itself is more expensive than the car payment for the Tesla,” he says. “You are probably looking around a similar price range to buy a fully loaded BMW 7 Series or Mercedes S Class anyway.”
When charging the vehicles, Spenta uses Tesla Supercharger stations, which are free, and supposed to remain that way. These nationwide stations — mostly near shops, restaurants, and restrooms — require about 40 minutes for an 80% charge. A full battery provides about 260 miles of range. Charging costs are rolled into the cost of the vehicle. “It’s very convenient and works out well for our chauffeurs,” he says.
Learning To Adapt
Because most chauffeurs are unfamiliar with driving all-electric vehicles, Spenta has trained them to balance the distance of runs with charging time.
“Training basically consists of informing the chauffeurs about how electric vehicles work,” he says. “It’s taken them a little while to get used to it, but it works perfectly when they do. They time everything and get plenty of breaks. If they’ve been driving for three or four hours, I want them to rest a bit anyway.”
On an eight hour job, for example, a chauffeur can take a couple of hours for a break while the car is parked at the Supercharger station. “We’re not going to be driving for eight hours straight,” Spenta says. “The chauffeur will take a breather and grab a coffee, lunch, and then head back.”
Related Topics: Cadillac, Cadillac Escalade, California operators, Driving Green, eNews Exclusive, green vehicles, operator profiles, San Diego operators, small-fleet operators, Tesla, Tesla Model S, unique vehicles
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