Government discriminating against chauffeur drive sector 

Government discriminating against chauffeur drive sector 


The Western Chauffeur Drive Association Ireland (WCDAI) have grave concerns for many of its members who are now under tremendous financial pressure as a direct result of Covid-19.

As the 6-month central Bank Moratorium payment break is coming to an end many have fallen between the cracks for all funding packages and schemes announced to date.

Schemes such as the €26 million business Covid 19 Adaptation fund along with the €10 million Coach Tourism Business Continuity Grant and the more recent 2 billion Covid-19 Credit Guarantee scheme have clearly ensured the limousine and small luxury coach sector have been unable to access these supports. Where the limousine sector has been clearly discriminated against by the government, similarly, the small luxury coach touring sector has also been omitted from accessing these highly publicised government supports announced since the Covid-19 pandemic began last March.

Paul Thompson Chairman of the WCDAI Stated that “Chauffeur Drive companies and coach operators were not listed nor even mentioned in the €26 million adaptation fund. We, as a sector, have and will continue to play a vital role in the Tourism industry linking all the tourism services together.” Chauffeur Drive along with Small Coach Operators of Mercedes Sprinter Type Luxury Vehicles and many midi type coaches operations are again excluded from the Coach Tourism Continuity Scheme, both of which are administered by Fáilte Ireland on behalf of the Government.

The Recent State backed Covid-19 credit guarantee scheme opened by Tánaiste and Minister for Trade & Employment Leo Varadkar TD, Minister for Finance Paschal Donohue, Minister for Public Expenditure & Reform Michael McGrath TD and Minister for Agriculture Charlie McConalogue TD is viewed by our members with increasing scepticism as confidence in government evaporates.  These big announcements have bought the government some time which is unfortunately a commodity the chauffeur drive sector and our members do not have.

The state backed scheme announced by the government was to provide an 80% guarantee for a loan for liquidity purposes for businesses who can clearly demonstrate that their turnover or projected turnover has been reduced by 15%. The loan guarantee scheme only applies to new business loans on top of current borrowings which would only further indebt struggling businesses. With no clear roadmap to a return to international travel, expansion or further indebtedness is not realistic. Viable Chauffeur Drive businesses have been decimated with turnover having fallen by over 90% with many of our members and associates not having turned a wheel since March 13th this year.

Gerry Keane Public Relations Officer for the WCDAI explained that “there are millions of euros of rapidly depreciating vehicles parked up right across the country and with absolutely no sign of any recovery in International Travel in sight, this state backed loan liquidity scheme put in place for business survival is not fit for purpose for our members. The scheme announced does not take into consideration existing loans. Supports allowing businesses to consolidate existing loans, freeze payments through the scheme for 12 months are key tools to ensure the mere survival of the Chauffeur Drive Limousine sector and small coach operators.”

Many members have given personal guarantees for existing borrowings whom all had viable business before Covid-19 now feel totally neglected by the state. Some members are in receipt of the Covid-19 payment and the NTA are currently conducting a consultation process regarding Licence renewal fees being waived for 2021. Although welcome, these steps alone will not cover the financial burden of vehicle repayments, insurance, servicing and depreciation being faced by members.

Paul Thompson Chairman also stated that our members do not want to be on Covid-19 Payment, we want to do what we do best. We did not cause this situation. We were all operating viable businesses. Recent airport closure announcements in Shannon, Cork and Ireland West Airport Knock paints a very bleak picture in the short to medium term for our industry. We need assistance to get us through this period so we can be a large part of the recovery when it takes place.

Credit Ratings are of serious concern now if further moratoriums are not put in place immediately to relieve the financial burden we now find ourselves in. It’s now not just vehicles it’s is family homes and lives that are at stake here. The mental health impact of the situation on members and the wider industry is becoming more evident every day and it would be remiss of the Western Chauffeur Drive Association Ireland to not address these concerns and raise awareness of the dire situation members face and the apparently intentional discrimination the chauffeur drive industry is being given.

The Western Chauffeur Drive Association Ireland operates very high end vehicles licenced by the Department of Transport. The nature of our core business dictates we must upgrade vehicles to meet contractual agreements including state agencies. These vehicles which are essentially the tools of our trade are very expensive and incur huge depreciation costs.

We have been completely excluded from and ignored by the Government to date from any announcements or supports. There is a lack of understanding at government level of the nature of our business and near 100% reliance on international travel. Our members now fear both vehicle and family home repossessions unless some form of meaningful dialogue and a financial rescue package is put in place immediately. After 8 months of requesting dialogue and much heralded announcements, the Western Chauffeur Drive Association Ireland are calling for immediate action, not words.