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Alex Darbahani of Los Angeles-based KLS Worldwide Chauffeured Services has found ways to promote and rent his white 2005 Rolls-Royce Phantom beyond the traditional wedding market.
While the limousine industry has shed many showy traits in the corporate realm, it still relies on elite images and products to thrive in the luxury retail sector.
So it should be no surprise that a value-driven economic climate still allows room for well-positioned Bentley and Rolls-Royce vehicles that endure much like Gucci and Patek Philippe. The 2012 International LCT Show featured a Rolls-Royce Ghost in February, costing $357,000. While these vehicles generally appeal to the motoring and chauffeured “one-percenters,” they also serve a strong special occasions market, such as weddings.
Most chauffeured car operations don’t have these vehicles in their fleets, opting to rent them or farm-out requests instead — the main reason being the high price tags. Operators generally should have the market and business to justify buying such a vehicle, and even then, it’s better to start with a used one.
A common technique that tests a company’s ability to sustain a new vehicle is to track the amount of farm-out business a vehicle type generates. Most operators do this before buying one, but in the case of a rare ultra-luxury vehicle such as a Bentley or Rolls, it may be hard to find farm-out work. So Alex Darbahani of Los Angeles-based KLS Worldwide Chauffeured Services did something a little different: he advertised his 2005 Rolls-Royce Phantom before he had one. “I put the vehicle on my website and tracked how many requests we got from it, and when I saw that a lot of people wanted to book it, I went and got it,” he says.
Once he got the requests, Darbahani tested the market by taking over the lease of the Phantom’s previous lessee who couldn’t afford to make the payments. When the market proved stable, he bought it. “These vehicles are very expensive, so do not buy brand new,” he advises. “A lot of these cars go to auction, especially in this economy, so look there first.” There are also websites for lease takeovers, such as TakeMyPayments.com, Swapalease.com, and LeaseTrader.com.
David Navon, owner of Crown Limousine L.A. of Los Angeles, got his Bentley Flying Spur as a lease return and paid $85,000 for it. The car had only 20,000 miles and was originally $195,000. Getting the vehicle for that price allows Navon to rent it out for $150 per hour, a rate attractive to potential clients while still being profitable. “If I paid [the] retail [price] and had to charge $250 or $300 per hour, it would have been harder to get it out,” Navon says.