More and more corporate executives and government official are changing from stretch limousines and sedans to sport utility vehicles. For example, North Carolina Gov. Mike Easley rides up to the state capitol in a red Ford Expedition.
Easley's taste in wheels, while a reflection of his unconventional style, mirrors the growing preference for large SUVs among VIPs.
It apears that public and private sector executives are choosing functional over formal in their official mode of transportation.
An added bennefit that you get in an SUV is the better security for VIPs than other vehicles.
"We've seen (interest in SUVs) jump through the roof," said Joe Ricci, spokesman for Vance International, an executive security firm.
Most people saw President Bush ferried about at ground zero in New York City in a Chevy Suburban. It's not uncommon for South Carolina Gov. Jim Hodges and his aides to pile into a black Expedition.
Governors and CEOs are following the trend millions of auto buyers have already latched onto.
The shift, usually to four-wheel-drive, however, goes beyond personal preference. Full-size SUVs with a third row of seats can carry more staff.
"It's easier to take the SUV than to take two vehicles," said Charles Freund, a spokesman for Virginia Gov. Jim Gilmore, who sometimes rides in a navy blue Suburban.
For the most part, public officials have shied away from conventional limousines recently. They?re fearful of creating a pretentious image, security experts said. Instead they choose dark sedans, but those have limited seats for staffers. SUVs provide both space and commonality.
(More information can be found in LCT magazine)