Of all the taxi companies pissed at how their business is suffering at the hands of Uber, Lyft, Sidecar, and others, DeSoto Cab Co.’s president Hansu Kim has been one of the most vocal. But now, as he tells SF Weekly, he’s sick of fighting his techie rivals and ready to transform his fleet into a limousine sedan service to compete with them.
Kim says: "I see a driver pool that is shrinking fast. I see the city has a completely deregulated industry. And I see 'limousine' vehicles acting like taxi cabs." He later adds, "I’d be a big hypocrite because I don't believe in this loophole. But I have to survive."
As SFist recently covered, the Examiner reported in May that San Francisco's taxi industry has lost a significant part of its business to transportation network companies (TNC), which is how the California Public Utilities Commission classifies and regulates new mobile-app-based services. DeSoto Cab said then that about 20 percent of its taxi fleet was not leaving the yard, due to a decrease in drivers. In a separate but related Examiner story, Kim said he'd be "surprised" if local cab companies survived the next 18 months.
DeSoto currently operates 200 cabs, paying the SFMTA $2,500 per month, per cab — an overhead Kim would immediately eliminate if he went the way of his competitors: "I'll give my medallions back to the city and put TCP [charter transportation] licenses on all my vehicles," Kim says.
Both the cost and regulations would be more lax if DeSoto changes to the new business model. As a limo service, the company would be regulated by the state, not the SFMTA, and able to work in surrounding cities.
Kim said DeSoto could make the switch as soon as 90 days, maintaining the brand and his cabs’ two-toned blue colors, but removing the taxi lights and meters.