Kevin Koswick, executive director of Ford Fleet operations (left) and Al Giombetti, general sales manager at Lincoln-Mercury, are proud to add the stretched Navigator to the QVM program.
Nearly four years after it was first considered for inclusion in Ford’s QVM program, the Lincoln Navigator will be available in early 2004. The vehicle-which will be classified as a bus due to its passenger capacity-was successfully crash tested as a 14-passenger, 140-inch stretch, with a gross weight of 9,800 pounds.
The first units are expected to be unveiled at the LCT Show in Las Vegas in February.
The original Navigator prototype was built at the same time as the first Ford Excursion limousine, which was introduced to the QVM program in 2000. The Excursion went on to become a popular addition to Ford’s Livery Department, but the Navigator project stalled several times before finally getting under way.
“We were going to move ahead with both SUV limousines, but the body-style on the Navigator was about to change the next year, so the project was temporarily shelved,” says Mike Bedard, Ford’s Limousine and Livery manager.
By the time the Limousine and Livery Department was ready to restart the Navigator program, Ford’s engineering and testing department had moved onto other projects that had a wider appeal to the general public.
Getting engineering resources recommitted to the Navigator project took the combined efforts of Ford’s Fleet Sales and Lincoln-Mercury’s Sales divisions.
“It didn’t hurt that the President of Lincoln Mercury, Darryl Hazel, got behind us on this,” Bedard notes.
Fueled by operator demand for a Navigator limousine, the departments worked together to push the project through. Kevin Koswikc, executive director of Ford Fleet Operations, and Al Giombetti, Lincoln-Mercury’s general sales manager, offer insight into the history of the Navigator limousine program.
LCT: Were you behind adding the Navigator to the QVM program from the beginning, and why?
KOSWICK: I have always favored the most diverse variety of products possible for our fleet customers, although the project actually began in 1999 before I joined the fleet department. We had hoped for a summer 2003 release of the Navigator limo package, but are pleased that it will be released in time for the 2004 prom and wedding season. This is a prime example of how the support for the chauffeured transportation industry spans many areas of Ford Motor Co.
GIOMBETTI: The initial project started before my time as director of Fleet Operations as well. However, the value we place on the limousine industry made this project easy to support. Not all areas of Ford have limousine package development as a top priority. Ford is a large company with many areas contributing to a project of this magnitude, which is why it took a little longer that expected. But we are very happy with the end result. The Town Car has been so deeply embraced by the chauffeured transportation industry that Lincoln-Mercury needed to see this through- even if it meant turning up the pressure to completely the new Navigator Limousine engineering.
LCT: What does the QVM Navigator add to your department?
KOSWICK: We value every aspect of the chauffeured transportation industry and this is further proof of that. WE are proud to say that the Navigator limousine is another safe choice for operators, which is good for all of us.
LCT: What does the QVM Navigator add to the Ford Motor Co.?
GIOMBETTI: Limousines have always added mystique and celebrity to a vehicle’s image, especially with the youth market. Lincoln is trying hard to develop even more brand recognition with that market segment.
LCT: What does the QVM Navigator add to the livery industry?
KOSWICK: The Navigator limo is an outstanding addition to any fleet and likely to be the vehicle of choice for weddings. It truly adds luxury and elegance to a wedding event and will make any operator look great.
LCT: What is happening with the QVM Excursion stretch?
GIOMBETTI: We are pleased to say that the Excursion will stay with us longer than we had thought. We believe there is no better value in a 14-passenger QVM certified limousine. We’re glad to have the Navigator as another option for operators to further distinguish themselves.
LCT: Will there be any other additions to the QVM program in the near future?
KOSWICK: We are always looking at chauffeured transportation industry trends and plan to continue to support the industry to the best of our ability.