As someone who has been parking cars since the late 1980’s (yes, I just aged myself), I become mesmerized by the number of things a modern-day valet must know just to park a vehicle. It used to be that the only tricks you had to know were that an ‘86 Thunderbird would not start unless you put your foot on the brake, or that you needed to put a stick shift SAAB in reverse to get the key out. Other than that, the cars pretty much all operated the same. Now, if you get into a Tesla, all you see is a monster iPad-style screen with hardly any buttons or switches. This level of unique innovation and customization isn’t limited to Tesla. It seems every vehicle manufacturer these days wants to out-do the others with more techno-wizardry while maintaining a sleek aesthetic.
Imagine being a valet in a high-end property, where literally every vehicle is a different variation of the latest and greatest euro-luxo-sport model. To make things even more complicated, there were more than 360,000 electric vehicles sold in 2018 (nearly doubling that of the previous year). Each of these electric vehicle models operate differently as well: some “creep” when they are in idle mode, some don’t move until you hit the accelerator pedal, and some have a switch that allows you to do either. Many of them drive differently, with some models like the BMW i3 that slows down like a golf cart when you take your foot off the gas, and others that drive more traditionally, almost indistinguishable from gas-operated vehicles. Valets must also know how to charge these vehicles, as many of our parking operations now offer this service. We’ve found that the most important factor with electric vehicles is training our staff for how unexpectedly powerful they can be. Case-in-point: seemingly regular family-style sedans that are faster than exotic sports cars.
Ultimately, it all boils down to a higher level of expertise and training required of the parking management company. As you can imagine, there is a cost to this, which many companies have had to structure into their agreements to account for the increased and ongoing training time. And now with the rise of the autonomous vehicle, we may soon have a completely new system of processes to adapt.
Technology and innovation isn’t just about what benefits you can offer your customers. It’s about adapting to ever-changing technology as service companies strive for consistent and seamless service levels for our customers.
Region Vice President