Just as dispatchers need to know the location and directions of their fleets in order to properly schedule runs, so too do operators need to get an overview of the limousine industry–where it’s been and where it’s going–in order to direct their future. That’s why we publish an annual guide to the Top 50 Fleet Operators in America, and why we’ve decided to expand this feature into a special issue. Think of all this information as sort of GPS map of the best and brightest companies in the business. In addition to all the operator profiles we’re running this month, we have gleaned some interesting comparisons from years past, both in the relative positions of various companies and the number and types of vehicles.
A cautionary note is in order, however, about the data shown here, collected through a combination of broadcast faxes, phone interviews and/or site visits. We have exercised due diligence in verifying these numbers by crosschecking nearly all of the vehicle totals and/or VINs with the operators’ respective insurance companies. The only discrepancies we encountered were minor, due to fleet turnover. However, in some cases a company uses independent operators who carry their own insurance, which can be more difficult to track down. Moreover, a few companies either did not respond to our requests for information or simply declined coverage. Finally, those operators who were interviewed but did not make the final cut will be profiled in a later issue. And perhaps by next year they’ll soar into the stratosphere of America’s Top 50 Operators.
CAREY INTERNATIONAL CONTINUES TO CONSOLIDATE THE INDUSTRY
In view of Carey’s top two positions on the list, and six overall (more than any other company), its perspectives on the industry are illuminating. What are some basic elements of Carey’s success? “To be successful today, you have to provide service across the whole spectrum,” notes Jon Goldberg, vice president of licensee operations for Carey International. “We’ve adjusted our product mix to handle a lot more group business; it’s a big growth area.” The company’s use of sedans now comprises the bulk of its service (roughly 67 percent, 10 points in excess of the average for the Top 50). Lincoln’s new L-model (a factory six-inch stretch—see Jan. ’00 LCT cover story), has become so significant, that a special edition has been developed with Carey badging, chrome wheels, a laptop desk and several other amenities. Vans and mini-coaches are also becoming increasingly important, more than doubling in fleet composition from three to seven percent (though still less than the Top 50 average by nine points). Carey’s limousine percentage of 26 percent is right in line with the Top 50 average, however.
On the technology front, by the end of this summer, Carey hopes to have completed development of the Carey Enterprise System, a proprietary reservations and dispatch system for its subsidiaries and licensees. Also, the company is working with Ford on a “click and chrome” system designed to increase efficiency by integrating wireless two-way communication, GPS navigation and in-car credit card processing. Much of Carey’s rapid growth has come about through consolidation, with a blistering pace of acquisitions within the last few years. Goldberg says that this strategy will continue, but the emphasis will also be on internal growth and net profit in order to offset increased costs for infrastructure, personnel and subcontracting.