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Operator Hits Industry Hot Topic Buttons

Martin Romjue
Posted on July 24, 2019

[This is the eighth episode in a recurring series of educational videos by LCT editors Martin Romjue, Lexi Tucker, and Jim Luff]

Michigan operator and LCT advisory board member Nick Kokas talks TNCs and technology in a video interview with LCT editor Martin Romjue on March 26, 2019 during the International LCT Show in Las Vegas. (LCT photo)

Michigan operator and LCT advisory board member Nick Kokas talks TNCs and technology in a video interview with LCT editor Martin Romjue on March 26, 2019 during the International LCT Show in Las Vegas. (LCT photo)

LAS VEGAS, Nev. — The luxury ground transportation industry should look to a more technology, TNC, and mobility-related future, which would open up new business opportunities for operations, says one advocate of redefining chauffeured service in an LCT video.

Small Fleets Bridge TNC Divide

A first step would be to bring in more small operators who do side work for transportation network companies (TNCs), says Nick Kokas, vice president of global operations for Brentwood’s Distinguished Executive Transportation (DET) in Macomb, Mich., near Detroit. The bottom line on TNCs is they are not going away.

To see the full video interview, click here.

“In the last two to three years, if you look at a lot of these one-to-five-car operators, they have reached out to the ridesharing industry. There are many companies that do rideshare and their traditional pre-reserved transportation. The bottom line is they need to survive. And for the last few years, there has been a disconnect. A lot of these operators feel alienated. So I think it would be nice to have some education for them or some support structures for these companies that have embraced ridesharing.”

Kokas points out many of these operators are legal, licensed, and do not stray beyond the Uber Black and elite levels of TNC service.

“They're not doing anything different in terms of level playing fields,” Kokas says. “They're paying for the high commercial insurance. Many are paying workman's comp premium. So, to say this industry as a whole is 100% against ridesharing, is a fallacy. It's ignoring the real world that's out there. I don't know what the exact percentage is in terms of what one-to-five car operators in the U.S. make up, but it's a large one. When you alienate a large percentage of that user base, it's not a good thing. We need to include everybody in the conversation. And when you do that, you provide better solutions for the future.”

More Intelligence And Mobility

Kokas calls for shifting industry education to more mobility and A.I.-related topics in the automotive sector, and look for ways operators can expand their services. The automakers, based on their SEC filings as publicly-traded companies, are investing hundreds of millions of dollars in mobility solutions, he says.

“They're not auto manufacturers 100% anymore. All of us should be learning as much from them as possible because if they're going into mobility solutions, that means they're coming into our space.” That means the luxury ground transportation industry should learn from them to stay relevant and create synergies with those industries to offer mobility-related solutions.

“Think outside of the box." Kokas says. "Take the bubble, take a huge pin, and pop it. Instead of creating lines in the sand, saying, ‘Well, this person is going to put a nail in our coffin,’ perhaps they may expand our future operations."

“We should consider companies like Google and Waymo...and what we can do in terms of education and enlighten our minds with what's out there. There are many second- and third-tier companies and startups that have launched A.I. projects, such as autonomous vehicles. There's no reason why these technologies shouldn't be explored and taught for the limousine or chauffeured car space to learn from.”

Enterprise & Education

In addition to running black vehicles and buses, the industry should complement and participate in other ways of mobility being pursued by the tech giants and major OEMs, he says. “How do we really operate all of this technology? I don't even think they're sold on whether or not they want to keep it all in-house. They may need companies like us or especially the larger ones to be the facilities of service and to help operate all of these technologies.”

With the advent of the Global Ground Transportation Institute, Kokas reminds the industry of what a trade group should be focusing on.

“Fundamentally, I think associations serve the purpose for people within that industry...Education needs to be within their sectors, which for us includes mobility. I've said for the last few years, we're no longer just a limousine or chauffeur car industry, or a transportation company, but we provide mobility solutions to the general public. With regards to associations, there's a lot of education that could improve from what we're used to.”

To see the other videos in the series, click here.

Related Topics: 2019 LCT video education series, artificial intelligence, automakers, autonomous vehicles, driverless cars, Global Ground Transportation Institute, ILCT 2019, industry education, industry trends, Michigan operators, OEMs, self-driving vehicles, small business, small-fleet operators, TNCs, video

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