One Finnish man got inspired by an interesting loophole in the very strict regulation of the Finnish taxi market. Succeeding where Uber is in legal trouble, Tero Takamaa from Jyväskylä decided to start driving cars with a museum status. But real story here is that he manages to do so without a Taxi permit.
According to Finnish tabloid Iltalehti, Mr. Takamaa sold his Rolex watch to buy a 1973 Mercedes-Benz W 115 series, the gorgeous sedan known for the vertically placed headlamps.
In another interview, Mr. Takamaa, himself an experienced taxi driver, elaborates on his rebellious attitude: He pursued this business partly because of his annoyance with Finnish taxi regulation. He also accuses previous employers in the same local taxi game of unfair labor practices.
In Finland, 30-year-old cars can be exempt from requiring a Taxi permit, that is, a license for transporting people commercially for a fee. This exemption presumably exists for rides at museums, special events and similar.
A sufficiently old car can be registered for museum use, which places no restriction on the use, provided insurances are in order. A limited insurance permits use of museum cars for 30 days per year.
While anyone can get the necessary license to drive a licensed cab, the number of taxis in operation is tightly controlled in Finland. The idea being that cabs are essential public transit infrastructure, needed for the sparsely populated country to function. Taxis are frequently used with government vouchers in connection to non-critical healthcare transports, for example.
Viimeisin automme katsastettiin tänään taksiksi… Heittämällä läpi…
Finnish taxi regulation is intended to prevent that the most densely populated markets attract all taxis at the expense of desolate, rural areas. A standard fare also protects customer from price hikes. Additionally, requirements on equipment and drivers skills are quite heavy.
The downsides of this system includes what one might expect: Suffice to say that public spokespersons for The Finnish Taxi Owners Federation have admitted to little to no understanding of why anyone even would choose Uber.
Taxi Federation members have tried to call the Police on Tero Takamaa numerous times. This has no effect, as his loophole is solid. Suffice to say, Mr Takamaa’s popularity at Taxi stations isn’t increased by him offering 15% lower prices than the standard ‘maximum’ fare.
He further thumbs his nose at what he describes as the “Taxi mafia”. Takamaa arranges courses and workshops for others wanting to enter the taxi business through the vintage loophole. He claims these courses have annoyed “the mafia” profusely.
Jyväskylä’s vintage taxi is popular with customers, though. Takamaa claims to get frequent tips, cancelling out his regular discounted price. Passengers also find the old cars endearing. This writer concurs: the MB W 114/115 series is an example outstanding industrial design. Its overall appearance kind of makes it look luxurious beyond the model’s original market segment.
To stick it to The Man, and to presumably expand his newfound empire to earn a lawful income, Takamaa has also put in service a 1984 Mercedes Benz W 201, operated by his son. Mr Takamaa hopes to see his business expanding up towards ten cars.
Arguably, Finnish police cracking down on Uber, while being bound to let Takamaa’s Vintage Taxi operate, has an adverse effect to the intention of the legislation. Uber places relatively strict limits on the age of cars in operation, which dramatically increases safety. However, if you’re calling Takamaa, you’re probably after an experience and willing to take a slight risk.
Operating such old cars in commercial fleet use is no walk in the park. Although Mercedes-Benz is known for build quality, nothing withstands time: according to Takamaa, his cars require constant work to battle off wear and tear… and rust.
If you’re ever in the Jyväskylä area and what to experience a fun Taxi ride, check out Vintage Taxi. If you want to join Takamaa in subverting Finland’s taxi monopoly, you can also attend one of his Vintage Taxi workshops to get help started running your own totally legal pirate Taxi service.
Takamaa’s courses are offered in English as well. At Ink Tank, we see some potential in making Vintage Taxis a way to earn an income for a few adventurous entrepreneurs.
Have opinions on Finnish regulation, Takamaa’s business or vintage Mercedes-Benz cars? Let us know in the comments section below.
Title photo by Tero Takamaa/Vintage Taxi Finland