Atlanta operator Danny Bacher writes this month in LCT Magazine about the vehicle choices facing operators after the Town Car.
ATLANTA — There seem to be some questions and concerns among operators about what sedans to choose going forward. Chauffeured clients have preferred the Lincoln Town Car since it has proven reliable, comfortable and spacious among a long list of positives. But is there really any reason for concern?
I’m mostly concerned about pricing and permitting: How much are these new vehicles going to cost? Not just to buy, but to maintain? Will the city and airports permit these new vehicles being used as sedans?
The bottom line is that clients don’t have a choice. Ford is no longer building the Lincoln Town Car, and for a small group of operators, Cadillac stopped making the DTS. [A successor model will be announced this year]. Operators will have to be open to using a variety of new vehicles in place of the Town Car and DTS.
The true question is: How much do clients really care about what type of vehicle they are being picked up in? Clients of chauffeured transportation around the world ride in different types of sedans on a regular basis: Lincoln Town Car Executive L in Atlanta, a Ford Fusion Hybrid L in Los Angeles, a Cadillac DTS in Houston, and a Mercedes E-Class in London. Today, many operators freely substitute SUVs for sedans as well. Many clients already have gotten used to riding in different types of sedans, while others are starting to.
I have observed that clients care most about a vehicle being new, meaing no more than three to four years old, black, clean, and driven by a professional chauffeur in proper uniform. I base these conclusions on what I hear from clients of Topper Worldwide. However, there are many clients who are fine with a vehicle being five to six years old, assuming it is well maintained, black and clean. Clients traveling often to the major Northeastern cities are more likely to be lenient with the age of a vehicle, where there is not always an inherent difference between black car companies and luxury operators.
I think many operators have the wrong perception of what a client — corporate or affiliate — is truly looking for in a chauffeured transportation company. Yes, vehicles need to be luxury, but once that has been established, the difference between a good company and great company is the efficiency and accuracy of an office operation. An operator’s focus should be on office processes rather than what vehicle should replace the Lincoln Town Car.
There are many viable options that can replace the Lincoln Town Car: the Lincoln MKT and MKS; replace all your sedans with SUVs; the Toyota Avalon; Hyundai Genesis and Equus sedans; Mercedes R, E or S Class; luxury hybrid sedans built for the industry; and a myriad of other brands randomly tried out by operators.
I know replacing a Town Car with a Toyota Avalon or a Ford Flex is easier said than done because of city and airport licensing and permitting rules. If those are an issue in your area, and if you haven’t already, start working with your local limousine association to get a variety of Town Car replacements put on the list of chauffeured vehicles that qualify for permits. This hopefully will make the process of adding new sedans and vehicles to your fleet clearer and less painful.
GUEST COLUMNIST Danny Bacher is the CEO of Topper Worldwide. He can be reached at Danny@TopperLimo.com.