An alert industry source sent me this article from Popular Mechanics magazine recently that should reassure the chauffeured transportation industry about the future of long wheelbase luxury vehicles: People want them!
This refreshing article rebuts the received wisdom we’ve been hearing from some automakers and government sources about the new recession-driven reality that vehicles will just have to be smaller to meet efficiency standards.
It turns out that was a premature prediction. Aside from consumers preferring longer wheelbase vehicles and paying for them, green vehicles have proven overrated and costly, while technological discoveries have yielded vast energy reserves worldwide. Fuel prices for now are falling as the economy recovers. Auto sales are up. The air got cleaner while global warming froze in its tracks.
Furthermore, a dealer source told me that automakers are able to re-engineer large vehicles with lighter materials and composites, which still make larger platform sedans possible under fuel economy guidelines. That’s why Lincoln and Cadillac are hinting at larger, longer sedans to come.
These trends should affirm the original appeal of chauffeured transportation, which is all about luxury vehicles with long wheelbases.
However, the Lincoln MKT Town Car, Lincoln MKS and Cadillac XTS — all produced for the new era of smaller luxury vehicles — will still serve a valuable niche within ground transportation. As limo operators configure fleets for a more competitive, price-sensitive market driven by diverse consumer preferences, standard wheelbase vehicles still will be needed in limo fleets.
Going forward, operators likely will use standard wheelbase vehicles for app-driven/on-demand or lower tiers of service, perhaps, and longer ones for traditional reservation-based chauffeured service. A $36,000 MKS can be priced better to the middle class airport rider with an app than a $68,000 BMW 7-Series better suited to the CEO on an all-day as-directed run.
Hopefully, this means the cultural demonizing of big vehicles, often parroted by fussy, no-can-do environmental groups, will run cold. Large, luxury vehicles are an American tradition. With technological efficiencies, manufacturing breakthroughs, cleaner burning engines and vast new energy reserves, the big cars should remain a proud staple of American transportation.
One quibble I have with the article is its first sentence: “American don’t have chauffeurs.” Now, most of us in the limousine industry know better. There are many people beyond and below the level of hedge-fund billionaires who use chauffeured transportation, which reflects the long wheelbase luxury choices of consumers.
The sentence points to an ongoing challenge for the limousine industry to better educate the public on the concept of chauffeured transportation. But that will be a topic for another day. For now, the more consumers want to drive a long wheelbase vehicle, the more willing they are to be chauffeured in one.
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