Come July, the frenzied pace of Los Angeles traffic will reach monumental highs as legions of residents and visitors take to the freeways en route to the various Olympic games scattered throughout the Southland.
In the largest city in the United States unserved by any extensive mass transit system, moving from Point A to Point B will be time-consuming to say the least, even by Los Angeles' standards.
Fortunately, many of these Olympic spectators have discovered that idling in bumper-to-bumper traffic in the comfort of a limousine can ease some of the traffic tension.
Some local limousine operators, responding to an informal survey conducted by Limousine & Chauffeur, indicated all vehicles as booked for the period, as were the additional vehicles they plan to lease at the time. One Long Beach operator indicated plans to purchase one additional stretch and van, plus the leasing of three stretched limousines. Currently, the operation has six stretches and two vans in its fleet.
Harold Berkman, president of Music Express, of Burbank, reported leasing five stretched and 10 formal limousines to supplement them fleet of five stretched, 10 formal, 10 vans and five sedans. Berkman also plans to hire 15 full-time chauffeurs for the duration of the Olympics.
Frequently, area operations indicated plans to acquire one to five additional vehicles, stretched, formal, vans, sedans or station wagons, either through purchasing or leasing.
Many consumers are voicing complaints regarding the excessive price raises many companies say they are implementing. Hotel and motel rooms, house and apartment rents seem to top the list.
Hourly rates from survey respondents ranged from a low of $35 to a high of $75. Rates per day will be as high as $2000 for a stretch limousine.
Many operations are altering their rate structures, changing their policies regarding advance payments, deposits and minimum times.
One Van Nuys operation requires a 50 percent deposit with 10 days of reservation, with full payment due 10 days prior to the reservation date. A 24 hour minimum is required.
Other companies require either a 50 percent deposit or payment in full in advance. Twelve hour minimums are frequent.
Additional service offered by operators include Olympic tickets available for patrons. One Marina Del Rey operator sports a helicopter for hire.
The point has been raised regarding the seemingly overnight influx of new "carpetbag" limousine operators; new companies forming only or primarily for the Olympics.
Kevin Byron, president of Debonneaire Limousine Service, of Whittier, said his company doesn't plan to acquire additional vehicles because, "I feel that there are going to be a lot of people jumping into the limousine business just for the Olympics and then sell their limousines after it. There are just going to be too many people selling them and they're going to go cheap, so people don't have to eat their payments."
Nick Newman, owner of Olympic Limousine, of Sherman Oaks, said this a time when there is a good deal of business to be gained. There have been many inquiries to Olympic's services, he said.
Susan White, sales representative for Executive Coach Builders, sold 11 limousines at the Los Angeles auto mobile show in January. She noted that many people are holding on to their used limousines, as it is currently a seller's market. She agreed that many business appear to be forming mainly because of the promise of increased business this summer.
According to Doug Wojcik of Hillcrest Motor Company, a Cadillac and Moloney dealership in Beverly Hills, sales of limousines have been averaging eight or nine a week this year.
Wojcik said he sees many limousine operations just getting into it for the Olympics. “I expect to see a lot of bankrupt companies afterward.”
Mark Radice, representing the BurCap Corp, of Santa Ana, has a contract to deliver 38 Royale Carriage van type limousines to a company transporting Olympic athletes' families.
James Salscheider, president of O'Gara Coachworks, of Simi Valley, sees it another way. "The Olympics are stimulating everyone with an idea to get into the limousine business. If you do well that month, you've nearly paid for your car I think what the Olympics will do is make Los Angeles into another New York. You're going to be so accustomed to seeing limousines during the Olympics. More and more people are going to try the limousines, more will find that it's a good way to go,” Salscheider said.
"A lot of people think after the Olympics that there's going to be this huge flood of limousines on the market, people going bankrupt. I don't see that at all. People are going to make enough money off the Olympics to stay in business," he said.
It appears that everyone involved in the industry is anticipating healthy business and growth this summer many appear ready to "go for the gold."