In Detroit, 2648 W. Grand Boulevard is known as Hitsville, USA. The original home of Motown Records, the site produced breakout hits by Marvin Gaye, the Supremes and Smokey Robinson, to name a few.
A few miles from the old Motown headquarters, a new “hit” is being produced. It’s called the Lincoln Town Car Executive Series L and it’s quickly going to “number one with a bullet.” A long wheel-based model, this factory-built, six-inch stretch has premium rear-seat luxury features, including a storage bin, two cupholders, two powerpoints, dual vanity mirrors, redundant controls (for audio, climate and the front passenger seat) as well as two cigar-sized ashtrays with lighters.
Many of the vehicles are receiving factory-installed upgrades including flat-screen TVs, GPS units and additional luxury amenities. Built on a 535 livery package, the L-Series has become popular with backseat passengers as well as limousine operators across the country. “It’s the new standard for the limousine industry,” says Mike Bedard, limousine and livery manager for Ford Motor Company. “There were 1,000 L-Series sedans sold in the four months that it was offered in the 2000 model year. As of October 15, 2000, we have another 700 delivered and that just represents July to September. It has been incredibly well received by the livery industry.”
Carey International, the nation’s largest limousine company, has adopted the L-Series sedan as its standard sedan. With a few custom upgrades (the standard car is fully loaded), the company has introduced the “Carey Car” to enthusiastic clients as well as owner/operators. The L-Series “short stretch” is not really a “stretch” at all. “It is not a cut car. It is built with a one-piece frame, one-piece steel roof and a six-inch extended rear door,” says Bedard. “We are offering it for sale through every Lincoln dealer in the country. It is not restricted in any way.”
The cost difference between the standard Lincoln Town Car (with the 535 livery package) and the L-Series vehicle is less than $4,000. Bill Cunningham is fleet manager for Acton Lincoln-Mercury in Acton, MA, one of the largest Lincoln fleet dealers in the country. Cunningham says the additional cost of the L-Series Town Car has had little impact on sales. “My customers absolutely love the car. I believe it will completely replace the 535 vehicle. This vehicle is a way for limousine operators to reward their customers and build additional loyalty with them.”
Some operators charge additional money to rent the longer sedan, while others simply “overdeliver” to their customers by using the longer vehicle for all sedan work. Cunningham says two other key factors have made the vehicle a hit. “The extended door makes it much easier for a passenger to get in and out of the rear of the car. Ask a chauffeur what it’s like with older clients or even taller clients, and he will tell you what an improvement this car is. The other factor is that Ford manufactures the whole vehicle from bumper to bumper. Don’t misunderstand me, I work with great coachbuilders all over the country but it makes it easier to have this vehicle come straight from Detroit.”
Bruce Cirlin of Limousine Sales of Westwood in Emerson, NJ, is one of the most well-known and respected salespeople in the industry. Cirlin reports that 70 to 80 percent of his fleet Town Car business has gone to the L-Series. “It is one of the most phenomenal things I have seen in all my years in this business. This vehicle genuinely excites people. Operators love the fact that their customers are more comfortable. Corporate people are not able to use limousines but with the upgrades and amenities we are putting in the back of the car, it’s as if they have a comfortable mini-office.”
Cirlin also believes the L-Series Town Car will be a hit at resale time. “I believe the operator looking to sell this car will find it easier to sell than a standard vehicle and I believe he will capture some, if not all, of the additional money he paid into it.”
David Seelinger, president of Empire International in Norwood, NJ, has purchased more than 130 of the vehicles from Cirlin. “We made a commitment to turn our sedan fleet to the L-Series,” he says. “Every day I receive a call from a corporate customer thanking me for sending them the vehicle. We price it as a standard sedan, but we literally deliver extra to the client. Adding the L-Series sedan has produced tons of goodwill for Empire.”