APRIL 2011 LCT PUBLISHER'S PAGE: As an industry, we should use the advent of the LINCOLN mkt stretch to reconnect with the affluent social circuit.
In preparing for my annual State of the Industry presentation at the International LCT Show in Las Vegas on Feb. 14, I was drawn into much of the current research on the exploding business of galas in the U.S. Primarily affixed to a fundraiser for a non-profit, galas and evening events, which usually start with a cocktail reception, are prevalent in the elite social circles of most American cities. And that’s by no means tongue-in-cheek.
An article published in the Boston Business Journal concurs that the number of formal affairs is skyrocketing — they are at an all time high in this recessionary time — as the pressure to raise money increases. With stacks of invites to contend with, Kevin C. Phelan, executive vice president at Meredith & Grew and a regular on the charity scene, commented in the article that, “Some nights it’s ‘hit and run’ where I spend 20 minutes at one event and then it’s off to another.”
So the affluent are partying like it’s 1999, even if it’s for a good cause. My question and my concern is why isn’t this group of big spenders who are drinking and staying out late (and who don’t seem to have a care in the world about the exorbitant price tag to attend such functions) booking limousine service?
After all, our industry originated from the horse-drawn carriage days. We WERE the EXPECTED mode of transportation to formal events until…well, that’s just it — until we fell out of grace. At some point the idea of a limousine to the affluent became vulgar, viewed by many as showy and excessive. Never mind the ladies in their $3,000 Dior gowns and 5-carat Neil Lang diamonds and furs — limousines got the nix from the VIP list. Somewhere we lost our cachet and that’s really sad.
This is a great piece of business on many levels: 1) The individuals who attend such events; 2) The connection to the companies they normally OWN or RUN; and 3) The networking opportunities with the event planners who are some of the most connected people in the business world.
So what can we do to clean up the misconceptions the affluent have of us and regain this lost limo business? I think we have a door that has been opened with the fact that by next year there will be a brand new limousine on the market. I believe branding a sleek, conservative black on black shorter stretch limousine is a good start. With the help of the automakers, coachbuilders and you, a branding ad campaign that reaches into “their” magazines such as Town & Country is an important step to recreating the perception problem we have with this group.
Also, I think we need to bring back the “butler” mentality of the chauffeur. The “casual dress” era begone. Look at what our chauffeurs used to wear and tell me that breeches, gloves and a cap weren’t a regal mark of distinction. That might be a bit over the top but something to think about. Most of the chauffeurs now resemble foreboding bodyguards, especially when they wear those tough guy sunglasses!
A limousine was not originally a car. It is a French term. If you have seen pictures from the 17th and 18th centuries where a high ranking man is sitting in a chair and being carried by four to six bearers, that is a limousine chair. We were born to carry the rich and famous, not be considered a circus sideshow.