Minicab drivers are finding out what it is like to have less choice and they are not happy

I got invited to a motor trade launch by a new company entering the electric car charging market. To be honest, I only went because it was central and the time suited perfectly! I was a bit surprised to see how many people there were in attendance from the minicab trade: fleet managers, buyers and the traders that lease and sell minicabs. I know a few of them to speak to and after chatting to them separately and in small groups I quickly learned that all is not good in minicab world!

They are all desperately worried about the fact that every new minicab sold must be ZEC from January. Their biggest concern is they can’t get them. The waiting lists for anything practical is a minimum of six months, with some pure EV and plug-in cars having a lead time of over a year.

The next biggest concern is the cost. Medium to large size firms are used to buying cars in bulk and negotiating massive discounts with the manufacturers by playing them off against each other. This often manages to get them 30% or more off list prices. But the new world is different. Not only is it impossible to get the cars they want, but the high demand means no one is offering discounts and they are having to pay list price just to join the queue. Manufacturers, faced with more demand than supply, are choosing to deliver to consumers first, leaving the high mileage and high warranty claims minicab market to last; what a turnaround! A quick bit of research quickly confirmed all I was told. Also, that manufacturers have been caught out by the speed with which the public has turned away from diesel in favour of hybrids and electric. They are desperately playing catch up in terms of availability and supply of the new technology. This would also explain why we are still waiting for the arrival of the new Nissan electric cab almost a year after it was first expected. The final concern from the minicab companies was the lack of charging infrastructure because, unlike the cab trade, there will be no dedicated chargers for them. They will have to use the public network, which as any TXe driver will tell you, is already massively oversubscribed. One minicab fleet buyer told me that it was “unfair” because all cabbies lived in the suburbs and had access to home charging, whereas most minicab drivers live in flats in London and won’t be able to charge at home. Whilst such a sweeping stereotypical statement is blatantly inaccurate, there is an element of truth in it and because he was so angry, I just nodded and agreed. The more I think about it, the funnier it becomes. In the 35 years, I have been in this business we have never had any, or very little choice of two very expensive vehicles, whereas private hire drivers could drive virtually any old rust bucket they wanted. Today, we have a choice of one cab, which is more expensive than its predecessor. Admittedly, the current cab is light years ahead of what we had previously. The minicab trade (from January) will have a much smaller choice of vehicles and all of them will be much more expensive than their existing cars, but without any real improvement and they will still have to stump up the Congestion Charge. This really is a case of “welcome to our world;” and they really don’t like it.

Image: Joenomias (Pixabay)

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