Abdullah Ilahi was three months into his new company when he ran into trouble. He had founded eMotion Chauffeurs and Hires out of a need he saw in his clientele of stock traders, since he is a successful day trader and co-founder at Empire Capital LLC. Noting their complaints about previous providers, and after taking a test ride in a Tesla, he believed he could provide a better alternative car service for his clients when visiting Chicago.
With the Tesla S getting media attention in late 2014, Ilahi saw a Tesla rental and chauffeur service combo as a money-making venture. He invested in six Tesla S sedans upfront and started eMotion in November 2014, marketing his service to his finance clients and their extended network. “In the beginning the rentals were doing good, and the chauffeur-side was slow. Tesla was in the public eye and people were curious to see what it was all about, so the rental business took off instantly,” Ilahi says.
But in early 2015, business began to flatline. It got so bad Ilahi considered shutting down operations and selling the vehicles, but first he wanted to try something. In March, during peak hours in downtown Chicago on Michigan Avenue, Ilahi had all six of his Tesla S sedans parked on the street with doors open and eMotion reps out there to show-off the cars and services of the company. Businesspeople getting off work and city tourists all lined past the vehicles, with Ilahi and staff telling them each about the different convoy packages available and the high-caliber chauffeurs with security training.
The Convoy Special
Business soon picked up with Ilahi taking requests for a variety of customers intrigued by the high-profile vehicles. “It’s a different experience in the Tesla, and the amount of attention the ‘Convoy’ grabs is amazing. We’ve had people follow us just to see who it is.” The Convoy Package at eMotion allows customers to book up to six Teslas at an hourly rate for their own private group transportation.
The chauffeurs have security backgrounds and training. A special eMotion concierge car, a Mercedes e350 branded with the eMotion logo and mounted with security lights, precedes the convoy to stop traffic at intersections. The lead car often has flags mounted to give it a Presidential feel, and the service has become popular for proms, weddings, and celebrity/VIP clients who want to make an entrance at the newest club or even take a stylish ride to the airport.
“All of the Teslas are identical, black on black with tinted windows and 21-inch wheels,” Ilahi says. “We don’t do stretch limos because those were cool in the 90s. We’re doing something different now with more pizazz.”
Ilahi says he keeps the price structure for eMotion simple, with no surcharges for extra stops or high-demand surge fees. Rates for a single sedan to Chicago-O’Hare and Midway international airports are $85 and $75 respectively, and the convoy package starts at $200 an hour for two sedans, and goes up to $600 an hour for six.
Low Maintenance Benefits
The business model for running an all-Tesla fleet was attractive to Ilahi from the outset. “I’m a gear head. I’ve loved cars since I was a kid and once I took a ride in this thing, I just saw it’s potential. I’m surprised the rest of the world hasn’t jumped on actually. It’s the best way to go. You eliminate your gas costs, and you get eight years of unlimited mile warranty, and I’ve tested it [the warranty], [Tesla] clearly abides by it, so you get rid of your maintenance costs too.”
Averaging about 30 chauffeured rides a day during busy time, the company has the potential to grow. Early on, eMotion overcame small obstacles, such as renters not fully charging vehicles or routinely scuffing the large 21-inch wheels on curbs. As vehicles are now booked with more frequency, a growing challenge is fully charging the vehicles before sending them back out for another job, Ilahi says.
A key reason why Illahi started eMotion is the Tesla, because it is the first non-emission vehicle with luxury appeal. “These cars are beautiful cars,” he says. “All-electric vehicles before have not been very appealing, the gas guzzlers were. You had the Nissan Leaf and Chevy Volt as your options for zero emissions and those are not something a business executive wants to be chauffeured in. But the Teslas are optioned out properly and the cars look immaculate.” Ilahi customizes his backseats with a rear-seat entertainment package that includes holders for iPad Airs, cupholders, Bluetooth link capability, and universal phone chargers.
Tech Basic and TNC-Friendly
Being a newcomer to the chauffeured ground transportation industry hasn’t stopped Ilahi from pursuing his original ideas about operations. The technology behind eMotion is surprisingly basic. Dispatch is handled through Google Calendar, Gmail, and each Tesla’s own internal GPS tracking. “I tried some industry software, but it takes a rocket scientist to get through it. We ditched it. I don’t need GPS trackers, because it comes with the Tesla App, which also lets me lock and unlock each car. Anytime we have an online booking it routes to Google Calendar and gets forwarded to all the drivers, and we set reminder emails. Once it gets confirmed, it’s done.”
Ilahi also partners with Uber in the Chicago area. “My view towards Uber is completely different because I know [the limo industry] are not big fans. I owe everything to them. I had no clients in the beginning other than my finance customers when Uber’s executive team reached out to me through Tesla. They helped me get all the cars registered for Uber, and we would pass out eMotion business cards to the passengers. We had a large influx of clients come from these Uber rides. In the beginning, before we did the press event, we were getting zero bookings for our chauffeured service. Uber helped fill that void and saved us from losing money in those first three months, and it still works out. Anytime the chauffeurs have free time, I let them go do Uber runs. It’s like getting paid to market our service.”
eMotion Chauffeurs and Hires
Owner: Abdullah Ilahi
Fleet size: 6
Vehicles: Tesla S sedans
Contact: (630) 936-4787
Originally posted on LCT Magazine