With Uber threatening to pack up and leave Quebec, Alexandre Taillefer is planning a major expansion of his Téo Taxi all-electric service.
On Wednesday, the entrepreneur who founded Téo in 2015 said he will more than triple the number of vehicles in the Téo fleet. It will have 350 cars within 18 months, up from the current 110 cars. The first 40 new vehicles are to arrive in two months.
Taillefer said the plan was already in the works before Uber’s threat, but he sees a greater opportunity now that Uber will either leave the market or operate under the same rules as Téo.
Uber has about 10,000 drivers in Quebec. Taillefer estimated Uber controls about 25 per cent of the Montreal market and carries passengers on 75,000 trips to and from Trudeau Airport every month.
Téo has been preparing for its expansion by hiring new drivers. Last week, 500 drivers applied, half of whom currently work for Uber, Taillefer told reporters after giving a speech at a conference about sustainable mobility.
As with Uber, Téo riders use a smartphone app to order taxis and pay for rides. Téo, a service that covers only part of Montreal, charges the same rate as Montreal taxis. Cars are equipped with cell-phone chargers and free Wi-Fi. Taillefer said it also offers drivers pay and working conditions that are better than Uber’s.
“The No. 1 complaint from our customers is that we don’t have enough cars,” Taillefer said. “Well, it’s not because we didn’t want to put them on the road — it’s because the (Quebec) government wouldn’t let us.” That changed last week with Quebec’s decision to allow Téo drivers to be trained for 35 hours, rather than the 150 hours previously required.
Reducing the cost of training means Téo will be able to hire more drivers to extend the number of hours its cars are on the road. Now, cars operate 10 hours per day; with extra drivers, they can operate up to 16 hours, he said. The 35-hour training requirement appears to be the key reason Uber is threatening to abandon Quebec by Oct. 14. On Tuesday, the ride-sharing multinational said it will leave unless the province relaxes new rules, which will also require police to conduct criminal background checks of Uber drivers. Taillefer said Uber, which he accused of skirting labour laws in Quebec, should not be allowed to bulldoze its way to preferential treatment. “They have an attitude — we call it bullying in school yards — that I’m not comfortable with and that I don’t think Quebecers are comfortable with,” he said.
He also announced two new all-electric projects:
- Téo Cargo, to launch late in 2018, will deliver goods between Montreal and Toronto via 10 all-electric, 18-wheeler trucks, Taillefer said. The project will require $40 million from private investors.
- Téo Express will be a local package delivery service using all-electric vehicles. Taillefer said he will not create that service from scratch. Instead, he said he in talks to buy a local delivery company.
- Alexandre Taillefer continues TEO’s fleet expansion to 350.