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Int'l LCT Show Tops Itself Again For A Healthier Industry

2017 International LCT Show floor at the Sands Expo in the Palazzo Venetian Hotel Casino Resort complex (LCT photo)
2017 International LCT Show floor at the Sands Expo in the Palazzo Venetian Hotel Casino Resort complex (LCT photo)
LAS VEGAS — For all the industry worrying about Uber, driverless cars, labor rules, and what-ever-will-happen-to-us speculation, the International LCT Show delivered a package of optimistic insights during its three days this week.

Altogether, the 33rd annual LCT Show provided a general direction and vision for the industry as it adapts to unprecedented economic and market shifts. Themed on “Embrace The New,” the 2017 Show struck the most hopeful notes in a decade as positive trends appear to work in favor of limousine operators.

In the first sign of overall industry health, the Show attracted more attendees than expected, with initial numbers showing an estimated 10-15% increase in attendance hovering somewhere around the 3,000+ mark. At every point on the Show schedule, more attendees than last year packed venues, especially keynote sessions, the night club party, and the international networking event, which spilled into the corridor.

Ribbon cutting March 13, 2017 (L to R): Nadine Bobit, Adela Grech, Grech Motors CEO Ed Grech, iCARS CEO Gary Bauer, Bobit Business Media CEO Ty Bobit, and Craig Hall of Ford/Lincoln (LCT photo)
Ribbon cutting March 13, 2017 (L to R): Nadine Bobit, Adela Grech, Grech Motors CEO Ed Grech, iCARS CEO Gary Bauer, Bobit Business Media CEO Ty Bobit, and Craig Hall of Ford/Lincoln (LCT photo)
The Show floor at the Sands Expo drew a record 138 vehicles, including at least 14 motorcoaches, and a total of 120 exhibitors spread across 178,000 square feet in a 200,000 square foot exhibit hall. Major sponsors included official sponsor Grech Motors, premier sponsor Ford/Lincoln Limousine & Livery Vehicles, and title sponsors iCARS and Prevost.

Among the highlights and indicators to be covered in the May post-Show issue of LCT Magazine:

  • The limousine convention looked more like a bus convention than ever before, with towering motorcoaches spread among a seat of minibuses and vans. All major bus manufacturers and converters displayed vehicles in the hall, and Berkshire Coach, a builder of high-end luxury minibuses, exhibited for the first time.
  • 2017 Volvo XC90 Excellence makes first appearance at an Internatonal LCT Show (LCT photo)
    2017 Volvo XC90 Excellence makes first appearance at an Internatonal LCT Show (LCT photo)
    Despite overwhelming show floor bus count, the industry still offers the strongest selection ever of luxury sedan and SUV models. This year, Volvo and Audi debuted as exhibitors with new models as part of their limousine/livery programs. Volvo brought a longer wheelbase 2018 MY S90 sedan, with 4.5 more inches of rear seat legroom than last year’s model, and the XC90 Excellence, a SUV model with rear-seat executive package. Audi exhibited its A8L long wheelbase sedan. Meanwhile, the Lincoln-Continental sedan, which debuted at last year’s Show, has drawn a devoted industry fan club with its steady sales. Several black-on-black Continentals were on display.
  • With all the funereal smack talk in recent years of the death of the stretch limousine, it somehow just keeps showing up at the Shows in traditional forms and exotic variations, proving the historic symbol of the industry endures. While no longer a sea of stretches, the trade show floor still offers enough variety of long limousines for anyone who would want a stretch-only fleet.
  • The prevalence of technology vendors selling software systems, cloud-based technology, GPS networks, and app-based affiliate and on-demand services underscored how technology is enabling chauffeured transportation companies to be more client-focused and customer-friendly.
  • LCT Publisher and Show Chair Sara Eastwood-Richardson (LCT photo)
    LCT Publisher and Show Chair Sara Eastwood-Richardson (LCT photo)
    In a hopeful State of the Industry address, LCT Publisher Sara Eastwood-Richardson pointed to a slew of positive economic, market, and industry indicators while exhorting operators to focus on new technology and personalized, high quality, tech-driven customer service. Sara advised attendees to embrace on-demand-app technology to ease the chauffeured booking process as much as possible. Among the strongest market segments propelling business and corporate travel demand this year are IPOs, health care, military, fuel/energy, and infrastructure repair and activity. Business travel spending should rise 3.5% this year to $310 billion in the U.S.
  • At a keynote session with Uber-critic Steven Hill, author of “Raw Deal: How The Uber Economy and Runaway Capitalism Are Screwing American Workers,” convention employees scrambled to set up extra rows of chairs that still couldn’t fully seat a standing-room only crowd. Hill predicted Uber’s money-losing business model and mudslide of unethical behavior will render it unsustainable. “Uber will be gone in three to five years, but not rideshare technology,” said Hill to applause. Uber also contributes to a growing gig economy, that while freeing up work schedules, shreds the labor- and income-stability of America’s full-time employment economy. “The company is a ticking time bomb. They’re not profitable and they subsidize rides.”
  • Hill and his on-stage interviewer, Dav El / BostonCoach CEO and NLA board director Scott Solombrino, both predicted driverless cars are much further away than predicted, and Solombrino asserted they would never happen due to the potential displacement of 30 million transportation jobs and safety concerns. Separately, Solombrino urged the NLA to fight driverless cars as they emerge as the association’s next major political battle.
  • NLA lobbyist Louie Perry of Cornerstone Government Affairs in Washington, D.C. (LCT photo)
    NLA lobbyist Louie Perry of Cornerstone Government Affairs in Washington, D.C. (LCT photo)
    At the National Limousine Association’s general membership meeting on March 13, lobbyists Louie Perry and Todd Webster of Cornerstone Government Affairs in Washington, D.C. told members the Republican wave that just swept the Presidential, Congressional, and state races points to an overall economic and political climate favorable to the U.S. chauffeured transportation industry. The change in Washington, D.C. could bring a harder look and outright rollback of certain regulations, such as the Affordable Care Act, and other rules hamstringing the predominantly small to medium sized businesses that make up the industry.
  • Public relations firm Evins presented the highest media metrics so far in its ongoing public awareness and media campaign about rideshare dangers and regulatory problems, helping to inform and educate major media outlets that are now more skeptical and critical of ride-hail/share services such as Uber. The two-year public relations efforts and PSAs have turned the tide in the mainstream media away from its overwhelmingly positive, credulous coverage of Uber.
  • At the LCT Magazine Awards Celebration March 14, Craig Hall representing Ford/Lincoln Limousine & Livery Vehicles presented NLA leaders with a check for $117,500 to split evenly between the NLA General Fund and the Harold Berkman Memorial Fund, which is the global trade association's philanthropic arm. The check amount is determined by the number of Ford and Lincoln livery vehicles sales, with $500 from each sale being donated to the NLA. 
  • George Jacobs (L) and Jeff Greene (R) shared heartfelt tributes to Harold Berkman, who died 20 years ago. (LCT photo)
    George Jacobs (L) and Jeff Greene (R) shared heartfelt tributes to Harold Berkman, who died 20 years ago. (LCT photo)
    The NLA raised about $28,000 March 12 at its annual fundraiser for the Harold Berkman Memorial Fund. About 125 attendees who came to the event held at Lagasse’s Stadium heard NLA board director and Atlanta operator Jeff Greene and Chicago operator George Jacobs shared tributes to Berkman, considered a founding father of the NLA and the modern-day limousine industry who died in 1997.
  • New NLA officers elected for the 2017-18 term: President Gary Buffo (Pure Luxury, Petaluma, CA), who is now serving his fifth consecutive one-year term; 1st VP Laura Canady (CLT Express Livery, Charlotte, N.C.); 2nd VP Joe Ironi (Global Alliance, Toronto, Ontario); Treasurer Robert Alexander (RMA Worldwide, Rockville, MD); and Secretary Scott Solombrino (Dav El / BostonCoach).
  • Finally, Solombrino emphatically told NLA members at the general meeting President Trump is a “hospitality president” and chauffeured car aficionado given his vast experience in the hotel, real estate development, and entertainment industries. The NLA Political Committee co-chair said this administration will be much friendlier to the fortunes of the chauffeured transportation industry than the Obama Administration, whose policies green-lighted the growth of Uber at the expense of labor interests and spurred too many regulations for small to medium-sized businesses.
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