Blacklane Seeks to Carve Out Niche in Intercity Travel Ground Transportation
Blacklane, backed by Mercedes-parent Daimler, wants to carve out a niche in pre-arranged intercity transportation. NYC was first US city Company offered service from and has since expanded nationally
The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) published an interesting article on Daimler-backed premium car/chauffeur service Blacklane. Going into the pandemic Blacklane’s business, which focused on international business travellers and executives, was directly hit as travel grinded to a halt. Given the muted outlook for a return of international travel, especially business-related travel, the Company believes a new opportunity has arisen - intercity transport. The WSJ reported Blacklane launched a new inner-city service from NYC in December with a strategy to expand to other major cities, such as Boston, Chicago, LA, London, Paris, Berlin, Milan, Singapore and Dubai. Blacklane believes there is a market of discerning executives and other passengers that would prefer to travel between cities via pre-arranged luxury vehicles with a chauffeur vs. crowded trains or short flights.
“Being dependent on travel and airports, we were on the front-line of the pandemic…But cities are back; they are mobile. There is good recovery of inner-city mobility.” - Blacklane CEO Jens Wohltorf
What I find particularly interesting about the offer is that it is priced at a discount to a comparable UberBlack trip and is even cheaper, in some instances, than regular UberX pricing! In the article it states that a passenger can book a trip from NYC to Boston (or vice-versa) for $399. I double checked the rates on the Blacklane site and this rate includes taxes, fees and tips! This is a great deal for the passenger given the luxury vehicle and chauffeur experience. The driver economics also seem attractive (especially with any additional cash tips, but also depends on Blacklane’s take-rate). As a point of clarification, the $399 trip is for a mid-size luxury vehicle, such as an Mercedes E-Class, BMW 5-series or Cadillac XTS. For larger vehicles, the cost of the the trip is between $519 and $599 for the Boston<>NYC route, which is still a very competitive price point and still significantly cheaper vs. an UberBlack/UberSUV trip.
For example, doing simple math with basic assumptions if Blacklane takes a 20% cut of the $399 trip and the driver has to pay for tolls and gas (let’s say one way it’s ~$30), the driver will be left with ~$290 net. ~$290 net for 3.5 hours of work equates to ~$83 per hour or ~$1.36 per mile, which is great! However, where it can get very interesting is if Blacklane can provide the driver a return trip. A roundtrip could net the driver close to ~$580 for 8 to 10 hours of work. If there is no return trip on the way back the driver wage is still good, but not as attractive - ~$41 per hour or ~$0.68 per mile.
From Blacklane’s sign-up page it appears the Company is focused on professional drivers with luxury vehicles. If you fit into this category I think Blacklane is an interesting Company to sign up for. If you drive or have driven for Blacklane it would be great to hear from you as well (e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org or comment below please). Another interesting part of Blacklane’s story is their recent purchase of a majority stake in Jaguar Land Rover-backed Havn, an all-EV chauffeur service.
Finally, and I would be remiss not to mention this, Uber and Lyft will likely soon revert back to their scheduler / prioritizing drivers who work full-time hours on their platforms. Choosing to work for Blacklane on a full-time basis may put a driver’s priority status with Uber and Lyft at risk, so it’s something all drivers need to consider before committing one way or the other. Personally, what makes me pause is some doubts around how consistently busy Blacklane can keep its drivers. Doing Blacklane a few times a week though plus Uber / Lyft could be a great way for UberBlack and luxury limo drivers to maximize their earnings.
Auto Marketplace NYC Newsletter is written by Dawood Mian, Founder & CEO of Auto Marketplace NYC. He covers the NYC for-hire transportation industry and related news. Search Auto Marketplace NYC for cars, parts, tires, technicians, body shops, reviews & more. Find great deals at TLCMKT.COM (new site AutoMarketplace.io to be launched soon, sign-up to the newsletter if you are interested to learn more ahead of launch)