Vehicle conversions go from strength to strength
Giovanni Vullo joins The Taxi Shop as Coachworks Director to head up the rapidly-expanding vehicle conversions side of the business. We asked Gio about the firm’s latest news and how he fits into the future.
“I was with Mobility Networks for three years, becoming an expert in mobility adaptations for vehicles using ramps, lifts, steps and many other products. During this time I focused mainly on export sales, travelling to Italy every week, so a lot of time away from home. When the chance came to join Rob Breuilly at The Taxi Shop I could see the potential and how I could fit in.
“I bring keys skills and knowledge around wheelchair accessible products, contacts and experience with the relevant understanding of legislation and homologation. I understand the marketplace for vehicles used by people with disabilities.
“At The Taxi Shop my aim is to grow our reputation for quality, reliability and friendly service, all matched with top class conversions. We are striving to become market leaders based on workmanship, dependability and customer service.
Applying quality standards
“As part of a whole series of internal management improvements we are in the process of completing ISO 9001, an important quality standard. ISO 9001 recognises our commitment to continually monitor, manage and improve the quality of our vehicles and services. It is based on seven quality management principles, which include having a strong customer focus, the involvement of top management, and a drive for continual improvement. With ISO 9001 we will become a better business and customers will see that we invest in quality.
Supply chain is crucial
“We are converting a number of different vehicles including Renault TRAFICs, Vauxhall Vivaros, Ford Customs, VW Transporters and Mercedes Vitos. Part of my work is building relationships with the leading industry suppliers and partners for conversions.
“We will only use the best suppliers and each must have the highest industry certification. We stand by all our parts and the craftsmanship that goes into the vehicles.
On the tools and in the garage
“When we start a job, everything is stripped back to the bare metal, we start from a blank canvass. We then build up the vehicle interior based on a clear understanding of what the customer wants and what the vehicle is to be used for.
“We will often put in completely new seats, deluxe deep-foam, very comfortable with the best covers. All parts have to be the best standard and it is all tested, of course. We don’t fit basic ply floors like many others in the trade; we use a lightweight composite floor in all our conversions. Our floor is made of XPS, polymer foam encased in ply each side and then the vinyl is suction-vacuumed on top, so it doesn’t peel, even if you scratch it. In the winter these special floors retain an ambient temperature inside. We believe our methods are unique.
“With his team, our top coachbuilder Ash is personally doing the conversions, and we have a brilliant auto electrician on board. This side of our business—converting minibuses to hackney and wheelchair standard— will expand a lot over the next weeks and months.
A bright future
“As quickly as we convert a vehicle, we sell it. We will soon have the time down to two or three days for a conversion where it used to be weeks.
“We know there are other firms out there doing this type of work and we relish the competition: it is good for the trade. First and foremost we aim to be the best that we can be at this work. We are already experts—the test centre told us ours were amongst the best conversions they had ever seen—and with the new systems and people in-house we are raising our game further.”