What’s in Your Garage Podcast Episode #5 Bob Aldons Speaks to Alf Intelisano
Bob Aldons: And good morning and welcome to a new episode of What’s in My Garage, and I’m sitting with a friend of mine this morning, Alf Intelisano. I’ve known Alfie for about six or seven or a handful of years through the taxi business, and he’s dropped in to say hello this morning. Welcome, Alf.
Alf Intelisano: Morning, Bob. How’s it going?
Bob Aldons: Mate, it’s going really well, but more importantly, how’s it going with you?
Alf Intelisano: Yeah, really good, thanks.
Bob Aldons: So what are you up to at the moment?
Alf Intelisano: Just at the moment, I’m doing a bit of marketing and customer service for Yellow Cabs, and that keeps me pretty busy, but-
Bob Aldons: I’m sure it does. Neill Ford’s a bit of a tyrant.
Alf Intelisano: He can be, yes.
Bob Aldons: Yeah. [crosstalk 00:00:33]
Alf Intelisano: Yeah, but a great, great, great group of people to work for.
Bob Aldons: Yeah, good stuff. Tell me the difference between Yellow Cabs, and the opposition in Brisbane is Black & White. What sort of share of the market do you two, the two companies, have?
Alf Intelisano: Look, it’s really good for the people of Brisbane to have two very different organisations in the taxi industry for personal transport. Yellow Cabs tends to concentrate on people calling in to the call centre and booking a vehicle. A Black & White cab does more hail and rank work, so there are differences in what we do and how we do our business.
Bob Aldons: Okay, and, mate, the gorilla in the room, obviously, is that thing called Uber.
Alf Intelisano: Rideshare, yes.
Bob Aldons: Rideshare.
Alf Intelisano: Yes.
Bob Aldons: So what’s ridesharing doing to the taxi business, say, in Greater Brisbane, Gold Coast, Sunshine Coast?
Alf Intelisano: Well, the problem with rideshare is that, and firstly, can I just say the industry has never been opposed to competition, but at the end of the day, people that don’t understand the work into the taxi industry. It costs money to get into the industry, and you have to buy a licence for the government, you can’t buy it any other way, through a tender process. And with that comes all the charges with the government, which is stamp duty and all the rest of it. When they allowed rideshare to come in, they allowed them to come in at no cost, so what’s happened in the industry is that we’ve got a value of a licence, which we paid the government for, which is diminished quite substantially because they’ve allowed other people in the market to come in at no cost whatsoever.
Bob Aldons: So, I mean, I know a little bit about the taxi industry and the woes that the taxi industry’s facing. I can’t understand why any government, whether it’s Queensland or another state, would just throw out the baby and the water and the bath and say, “Well, we’re going to do things differently, even though you paid us millions, and millions, and millions of dollars over the years.”
Alf Intelisano: Yeah, look, we’re struggling with that as well. There were decisions made on the 5th of September. I think, at the end of the day, my opinion is, the government’s made it because they want to be looked as proactive, embracing technology. Now, we have that same technology. The difference that the taxi industry has to, say, rideshare is, we don’t have the budget for all the marketing and all the hoo-ha that goes behind it. But-
Bob Aldons: But the ridesharing industry just seems to have got a free ride with all the marketing because of the publicity that they’ve generated.
Alf Intelisano: Absolutely. Absolutely, and look, at the end of the day, in my view, I think it’s all about votes. It’s all about trying to get the young generation to vote, and it was something that they thought was quite popular, but what’s happened behind the scenes now is that our industry is at a huge crossroads, and to maintain service in everything that we’ve done in the past, and to add value to what we’re doing today, all costs money. And at the end of the day, what we need to do is just to make sure that we give the best customer service we can and the best customer experience. But-
Bob Aldons: And that’s what it’s all about, isn’t it?
Alf Intelisano: Yeah, but it’s very difficult when it’s not a fair playing field, and just one thing, third-party insurance for a taxi is around $6,000.
Bob Aldons: I mean, ladies and gentlemen, this is part of the crazy business of ridesharing. The cost of the licence is one thing, but the cost of the ongoing maintenance of the account is another thing, and this is a really good point that Alf’s about to make.
Alf Intelisano: So what we’ve got is, we’ve got public liability in place, and our compulsory third party is around $6,000 a year per cab. It was up to about 8,000, so that’s just one cost that we have to bear where anyone who comes in in ridesharing doesn’t have to bear, so do they have the proper insurance? Don’t think so.
Bob Aldons: Well, it’s, I suppose, and sorry to cut in, but I get pretty passionate about this, that there has to be an even playing field, so if I get my 2012 Ford Falcon, and I go out and become a ridesharing driver, I don’t have to go out and spend $6,000 on my third-party insurance. My normal third-party insurance is about 380 or 400 bucks a year, so you’re immediately faced with a disproportionate cost, 6,000 versus 400.
Alf Intelisano: Yeah, exactly, and when you look at it, Bob, at the end of the day, you’re driving around, and it’s a commercial vehicle, because you’re using it to create income, so that’s one thing that’s unfair. The other thing that the government’s done is to say, “Well, we don’t want you to train your drivers. You don’t need English assessment.” These sorts of things really devalue our industry and, in my view, just makes it easier for rideshare to come into the market. At Yellow Cabs, we have decided to say no to that. We will train our drivers. We will do the English assessment, and we’ll continue to maintain and keep our standards as high as possible.
Bob Aldons: And that’s a good thing.
Alf Intelisano: Yeah, and at the end of the day, like I said, we’re not opposed to anyone coming into our market, but make it a fair playing field. Either get us down to their level, which we really don’t want, that’s the worst thing that you could do, or get them up to our level or to a level that’s very, very comparable with what we’re doing.
Bob Aldons: And I suppose the ridesharing businesses, the drivers work in hours that suit them rather than what suits the paying public.
Alf Intelisano: Absolutely. That’s correct, and you might get someone in a rideshare that might only do two or three jobs a day, but there’s enough of them around that sort of pick all that up, so they’ll pick the best bits to do. There’s no wheelchair-accessible, so-
Bob Aldons: And, mate, that’s another one.
Alf Intelisano: The disability-
Bob Aldons: You have the disabled, the disability.
Alf Intelisano: The disability sector is up in arms, because they’re saying, “Well, what about us?” And look, all they’re doing is coming into the market and cherry-picking the bits and pieces that they want to do when they want to do it.
Bob Aldons: So they don’t want to have to do the hard work. They just want to scrape the easier stuff.
Alf Intelisano: Yeah, exactly, and there’s no real way that the government can control them, so you don’t know who’s driving. They’ve got personal details. If you’re in a rideshare, it’s just simply, they can turn off their mobile phone, and no one knows where they are. When you hop into a taxi, we have track and trace, so we know exactly where the cab has gone, which way it’s gone, the speed it’s done, how many red lights it’s gone through. We have a camera system in our cabs, which the government just increased with voice activation, which is another $4,000 cost to each taxi.
Bob Aldons: A year?
Alf Intelisano: A year.
Bob Aldons: Wow.
Alf Intelisano: Yeah. Well, sorry, for the duration of the camera, but then there’s ongoing maintenance on that as well. So what we’re saying is, if rideshare don’t need to do all that, then why did they, and why did the government, and this baffles me, and I’ve spoken to the minister only last Friday, did they allow rideshare to come in at no cost? And why have they put a package together for the taxi industry where the taxpayer’s going to have to pay? I think that’s ridiculous. I think if you take one huge rideshare organisation in Brisbane now that’s going across Australia, the amount of millions of dollars that they’ve got is ridiculous for a government to say, “We’ll let you in for free, but you know what? The taxpayer’s going to pay to help compensate the taxi industry.” I think that’s wrong. I think they should have allowed the rideshare people to pay for the compensation for the taxi industry …
Bob Aldons: Yeah. Yeah.
Alf Intelisano: … not the taxpayer. And remember this, too. When you are taking rideshare, the majority of all that money that they create themselves goes offshore, so next time when you’re sitting in a hospital and you’re sitting there for an hour and a half, and you’re wondering why you’re not getting looked after, that’s where our taxes go. Our taxes go into maintaining roads, maintaining traffic lights, maintaining our hospitals, and our social and welfare. At the end of the day-
Bob Aldons: But all this money, the ridesharing businesses are overseas-based.
Alf Intelisano: Absolutely. Goes straight out …
Bob Aldons: [crosstalk 00:08:48]
Alf Intelisano: … of Australia, no GST’s paid, and straight overseas.
Bob Aldons: And that was something else I was just going to ask you about. I’ve used ridesharing every now and again when I went into state, but there’s no GST claimable for me as a business, but they don’t appear to be charging it either.
Alf Intelisano: That’s right.
Bob Aldons: How do they get away with not being able to charge GST?
Alf Intelisano: Look, this is just one thing that the government didn’t really have great thought on what they were doing, and now what they’re doing is going back and trying to patch these certain things up.
Bob Aldons: But that’s not a state thing. That’s a federal thing, isn’t it?
Alf Intelisano: Well, both. Both. I mean, federally, yes. Statewise, each state is different to every other state, and so they are in the taxi industry. In Queensland, we have what we call a contract, which guarantees us a certain level of time that we take to get to the customer, so it’s a service contract which we signed many, many years ago with Queensland Transport. So what that’s done is, that’s made our service far better in Queensland, and I’m talking right up and down the coasts and inland to what Sydney and Melbourne had. They didn’t have a service contract.
Bob Aldons: So they didn’t have the service-level agreement in …
Alf Intelisano: No.
Bob Aldons: … their state.
Alf Intelisano: No, that’s right, so we’ve maintained that, and it’s something like, “We’ve got to get a cab to you within 20 minutes of your ringing through a peak time.” Now, we don’t always get it right. There’s always room for improvement in every industry, but we’re working very hard to make sure that we are the best we can and deliver a great service and deliver a good customer experience.
Bob Aldons: That’s great. Mate, we’ll get off that topic for a tick …
Alf Intelisano: Sure.
Bob Aldons: … so I can see you’re pretty passionate about it, and I am, too. I like to see level playing fields in whatever endeavour that we go in, and it’s obvious to me, anyway, that it’s not a level playing field with ridesharing in Australia at this point in time.
Alf Intelisano: Sure.
Bob Aldons: Mate, the topic of this podcast is, what’s in your garage? Now, I know you’ve had many and varied vehicles in the Intelisano garage, but tell me, what are you driving now?
Alf Intelisano: At the moment, I’ve got a Ford Falcon XR6, and my wife Debbie’s got a new Mercedes Benz C-Class. I have, in the past, and when I left my business at Ivorycoast, had a beautiful one-owner Type 3 station waggon VW, which I did a grand up restoration.
Bob Aldons: What was the name of that? What was everyone calling that?
Alf Intelisano: I’m just trying to think. Look, I can’t even-
Bob Aldons: Was it Henry?
Alf Intelisano: Henry.
Bob Aldons: Henry?
Alf Intelisano: Henry.
Bob Aldons: Because I had that … Listeners, I had that on my showroom at my Volkswagen dealership a couple of years ago, and it always got some fantastic comment.
Alf Intelisano: Yeah, it was great, and I thought I’d just try the market and see how I go with that, and within a week of posting it, it was sold, and I really loved that car, and it had great character, and everywhere I went, it was very authentic. It had the roof rack, and it was immaculate.
Bob Aldons: And genuine roof racks.
Alf Intelisano: Yeah. Yeah.
Bob Aldons: Fantastic.
Alf Intelisano: And always got the heads up on that, so that was a great little car.
Bob Aldons: And of all the cars that you’ve owned over your driving life, what’s been your favourite?
Alf Intelisano: I think, well, there’s been two, and I can’t pick one, but there are two, and they’re both Italian. One was my Fiat 695, which I purchased from you.
Bob Aldons: Yeah.
Alf Intelisano: The Tributo. That was just a magic-
Bob Aldons: That was the Ferrari Tributo. It wasn’t a-
Alf Intelisano: Magic little car. Absolutely magic little car, and yeah, it got me into a lot of trouble. And then the other one, which was my royal blue Maserati GranTurismo, which was just in a class of itself. It was just the noise it made was just amazing.
Bob Aldons: And I know that car, because I had it here, looking after it for a little while for you, 4.2 V8, and just an awesome-sounding motor car, hey.
Alf Intelisano: Yeah, absolutely beautiful. Love going through the tunnels of Brisbane in second gear at about 80 kilometres an hour.
Bob Aldons: Nice.
Alf Intelisano: Wonderful. Loved it. So yeah, look, and prior to that, I’ve had a couple of other bits and pieces. I had a Ford Falcon GT. That was a wonderful car that was just pure grunt, but my two favourites, definitely the Fiat and the Maserati.
Bob Aldons: Good stuff. Now, Alf, this is the million-dollar question, mate. If money was no object, and I mean no object, what would you buy?
Alf Intelisano: Look, I really think I would probably look at buying a McLaren.
Bob Aldons: A McLaren?
Alf Intelisano: Yeah.
Bob Aldons: Well, that’s the first time I’ve ever had that answer, Alf.
Alf Intelisano: Yeah.
Bob Aldons: A McLaren.
Alf Intelisano: Yeah.
Bob Aldons: Why?
Alf Intelisano: I just think they’re an absolutely stunning vehicle. The problem you’ve got here in Australia is, you just don’t have the motorways where you could enjoy it, but to me, if money was no object, it’d definitely be a McLaren. Second to that, have to be a Lamborghini, have to be Italian.
Bob Aldons: And then that’s fair, too, being a man of Italian heritage, and yeah, look, mate, that’s really good, and thank you very much for spending a few minutes with us. It’s interesting to hear what people would like in their garage, what they’ve got, what they’ve had, and certainly what they’d like to have if they could just write a check without having to think about it.
Alf Intelisano: Yeah, yeah. No, great, Bob.
Bob Aldons: So that’s great, and we’ve been speaking with Alf Intelisano, a mate of mine, been in the taxi industry for a long time. Obviously an Italian man through and through. You’ve got a McLaren, which is not an Italian car, but certainly a Lamborghini that he would love to have. I suppose you’d drive one on weekends and one during the week.
Alf Intelisano: That’d be the go. That would be wonderful, yeah.
Bob Aldons: And thanks very much for joining us on What’s in Your Garage.
Alf Intelisano: Thanks, Bob. Great to catch up. Cheers.
Bob Aldons: Thanks.