LAS VEGAS — The state of the livery vehicle market this year boils down to a simple but memorable image: A Lincoln and a Cadillac just a few feet — but a generation — apart on the LCT trade show floor.
At center stage was the debutante — a new 2013 Lincoln MKT “Town Car” — covered in a tarp, ready to be unveiled before industry society accustomed to decades of the Lincoln Town Car Executive L, which finishes production in August.
A few feet away sat the venerable Cadillac DTS sedan, making a final show floor appearance before bowing to a successor to be unveiled during the next year. By the time of the 2012 International LCT Show next February, the transition to a transformed limousine vehicle market will be done.
The orderly era of luxury transportation defined by the first-ranked Lincoln Town Car Executive L sedan and the second-place Cadillac DTS sedan will yield to a toss-up time of a distinct choice between the crossover utility-styled luxury MKT and a sedan-styled Cadillac luxury vehicle. Both vehicle-makers are offering innovative amenities and upgrades that raise the bar for luxury chauffeured vehicles and customer expectations.
“It’s time to end an era and move on to the next. The next generation Lincoln retains the DNA of all the Town Car attributes,” Brad Roney, Ford fleet limousine and livery manager, told an opening day crowd on the show floor Feb. 14.
Lincoln representatives pulled back the tarp on the MKT Town Car and a 120-inch stretch version prototype built by DaBryan Coach Builders. Ford fleet marketing manager Gerry Koss told the audience that the MKT Town Car was “not something put together quickly.” The final product resulted from three years of meticulous customer, engineering, design, and sales research, involving detailed feedback from focus groups of operators and clients. Engineers worked hand in hand with Ford’s Limo/Livery Advisory Board, which provided key input on desired vehicle attributes such as performance, comfort and functionality. The board also talked directly to vehicle users, i.e. owners, chauffeurs and passengers, to get a better understanding of their wants and needs.
“The Lincoln MKT platform is the largest, most durable, most reliable platform in the [vehicle] portfolio,” Koss said. “This is the best livery vehicle ever developed by Ford Motor Co.”
Throughout the three-day show, attendees orbited, entered, and exited the MKT vehicles, taking pictures, reclining in seats, and probing every available surface and interior part. Some attendees even sat in the rear cargo compartment with their legs hanging over the rear bumper. The 2013 Lincoln MKT Town Car offers more headroom, legroom, and luggage room than its predecessor, in addition to all-wheel drive and more tech friendly access such as USB ports and WiFi hotpsots.
The DaBryan 120” stretch unveiled on the Show floor is a prototype that still needs a further refined interior, said Edward McDonald, chief operating officer of DaBryan Coach Builders, the limousine division of Accubuilt. The MKT Town Car stretch is two inches narrower but two inches taller than a Lincoln Town Car. The interior of the MKT stretch that debuted at the Show is not the final version of the interiors that individual coachbuilders will be designing for their respective MKT stretch models, MacDonald told LCT. That means the J-seat legroom dimensions of the MKT prototype will increase with the new interior designs.
For complete, detailed information on the MKT and MKT stretch prototype: LCT MKT NEWS ARTICLE.
The new Lincoln and Cadillac models retain an enhanced set of luxury “vehicle values” that gestated during the decade of 9/11 and the Great Recession. Both new models will reflect the updated characteristics of “practical,” “discreet,” “technical,” “efficient,” “secure,” and “comfortable,” whereas the receding set of vehicle values could be described as “big,” “visible,” “pampered,” and “attention.”
That pivotal change in luxury vehicle dynamics could be observed among numerous chauffeured vehicles of all sizes on the show floor. Mercedes-Benz USA offered up its S550 and R350 luxury models, redolent of the most common chauffeured vehicles that have been used profitably for many years by operators across Europe. Toyota Motor Sales displayed a black livery package version of its Toyota Avalon — a new brand for the industry that proves luxury, affordability, and practicality are not all mutually exclusive. Royale Limousine Manufacturers once again featured its Lincoln MKZ Hybrid, an unrivaled green sedan stretched six inches that is the most fuel-efficient legitimate luxury vehicle available on the chauffeured market.
The chauffeured transportation industry also is seeing a swing toward more economical group ground transportation, whether for business or pleasure, and the gradual evolution of larger mid-sized buses and the embrace of motorcoaches. Among the mini-bus, motorcoach, and stretch limousine vehicles displayed across the vast Paris Las Vegas show floor.
MORE VEHICLES SHOW COVERAGE IN THE APRIL 2011 ISSUE OF LCT MAGAZINE. . .