You might recognise Andrew Fowler. In his day job, he’s one of Britain’s best chauffeurs – a silver medallist in the driver of the year category in Professional Driver’s 2013 QSi Awards.
But we’re not here to talk about Location Chauffeurs, the chauffeur company he set up with his wife Jane in 1984. We’re here to talk about the offshoot business that is gradually taking over the couple’s business life.
One thing’s certain – you’re always in for an adventure when Steve Sommerfeld and Robert Mroczek are involved. Last time, it was dodging checkpoints and heavy snow in Davos, Switzerland, for the World Economic Forum, with their chauffeur business, England Limousines.
This time, it’s a different mission. I’m picked up outside Waterloo Station by Steve and Robert’s a black Mercedes ML350, and we’re off, down South London back streets, for a rendezvous in a car park. We’re meeting The Third Man…
You’re seeing a lot less of Gary Jacobs these days – but you’re also seeing a lot more of him. No, we’re not writing Professional Driver in riddles. But the taxi industry financial guru is looking much leaner these days after losing several stone.
Now he’s bursting with energy and enjoying gym sessions for the first time in his life. Just as well as he needs plenty of stamina for his two businesses, which are getting busier and busier. His biggest concern is new legislation regarding the status of self-employed contractors, changes that could cause major headaches for private hire and chauffeur operators.
Insurance can be a major headache for chauffeurs. It’s not just a case of having to insure a big, expensive car. There’s also the requirement to have the correct cover in pace to cover your customers too if the worst happens.
It’s a complicated business for the insurer too, so it’s not surprising that a lot of the big insurance give chauffeuring and private hire a wide berth. At best, there’s a lack of consistency – risk-averse insurers often charge over-inflated rates, simply because they don’t understand the business.
Ask any chauffeur about the problems he faces and you can be sure that finance will come somewhere near the top of the list. Chauffeur cars aren’t cheap – but increasingly chauffeurs are facing demands from clients to have the lasts models on strength.
Few chauffeurs are cash-rich enough to buy cars without finance - so the pressure’s on to find funding, whether it be hire purchase, leasing or contract hire. And there are some attractive rates to be had – from manufacturers’ chauffeur programmes in particular – providing your credit stacks up.