Thursday, June 5, 2008

Ethical/green driving lessons

The Pitch
I haven't covered many straightforward business ideas here, but let's start with some bandwagon jumping: Green driving lessons.

The differences:
  • The instructor's car is a hybrid of some kind, or perhaps a hydrogen/electric car eventually.
  • Lessons are on driving an automatic. All hybrids and electric cars are automatic or paddle-shift, because the standard gearing system and technique is designed to give a petrol engine mid-range revs where the it has its best torque output. I think.
  • It should help shelter the instructor from the rising price of fuel
  • But above all it's got that warm, fuzzy, superiority of doing something normal in a green way.

Did you wonder why 'ethical' sits pressed against the 'green' in the title? Ethically, you'd be better off feeding the starving than saving the environment, in my view. So perhaps the fuel money saved (significant - learners spend even more time at low speeds) could go to aid charities, or at least give the student the choice of adding a pound to their lesson price to go straight to a particular charity. They'd go for it, they're paying for green lessons.

Business Sense
There is good business sense behind all this:

Target demographic: younger females.
Most learners are teenagers. Most teenagers are still quite left-wing, liberal, eco-friendly, moral, etc. They're not bitter yet. So to many of them, particularly those who aspire to driving hybrids later on, green driving lessons would make perfect sense. Admittedly, a more female demographic, and some of the boys will baulk at the automatic-only nature of the deal and the girly image. So consider this a niche market. A niche 50%.

Marketing message: aspirational.
Most marketing, and generally the most manipulative marketing, is aspirational. And here you're certainly trading on that: if you want to be green, you'll have eco-friendly lessons.

Lower overheads = wider profit margins
One of the largest overheads for any driving instructor is the fuel. As the price of petrol rises with the price of oil and tax increases, the instructor's profit margin is squeezed. On the other hand, as this pushes up the average price of driving lessons, a green driving instructor would see their profit margin increase as the extra money mostly went into their pocket.

The Hypocrisy and the Pragmatism
There is hypocrisy (no, not irony) in eco-friendly driving lessons. The best lesson is to simply get a bus instead. But there is pragmatism at work - if kids are going to learn to drive, teach them how to do it with good fuel economy. The clutch/accelerator games disappear in an automatic, so there isn't the tradeoff that lower revs means more stalling. And they'd be geniunely interested in learning. Smooth driving is generally safer anyway.

The Final Kicker: Parents as a new (niche) market
With high petrol prices, inevitably the parents could benefit from learning greener driving, which opens a new market: Parents that take a few lessons on green driving technique. Inevitably, you don't have to be a parent to do it, but parents are the most immediate choice: you already have the customer relationship in teaching their child to drive. So it shouldn't be too difficult to add a few hours on for Mum to learn smoother driving and up her fuel economy. Inevitably, a fair proportion of the time would be spent teaching them to drive more carefully and ironing out bad habits, but that can only be a good thing.

You can always earn commission on referring them to your nearest hybrid dealership.

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