Operators have received an important glimpse into the stability of the industry’s coachbuilders during the nation’s recent economic shakeout. The strongest companies-the ones that have exhibited the necessary slaying power to ride out the storm - focus on customer service before, during and after the sale. They also support their products with a strong warranty program and aggressively pursue innovations to continually improve their vehicles and build processes.
At Royale Limousine Manufacturers, building limousines and minibuses remains a work in progress, according to company president Cabot Smith. “We believe it is one of the main reasons we have continued to move for ward, even in this current economic climate,” he says.
“We never let ourselves become complacent,” he adds. “We continually underwrite our future by reinventing and reinvesting in our company and products.”
Stalling this spring, all Royale vehicles will have a new, electrical system that features touch-screen controls and allows owners and chauffeurs to reprogram any of the car’s amenities quickly and easily.
“The driver has total control from the front seal.” Smith explains. “The fast forward on the DVD player, the on/off switch on the TV, the heating and air conditioning, everything. It gives drivers full functionality over the rear of the vehicle, something they didn’t have previously.”
A model of efficiency, Royale’s recently expanded 50,000-square-foot plant in Haverhill, Mass., is built around a modular, U-shaped production line that makes the most of both computer-automated controls and experienced, skilled craftsmen. Quality control and efficiency are maintained both by cautious, expert eyes and a bar coding system that tracks production during every step of the build process.
This real-lime tracking system allows the company’s efficiency experts to re-examine sub-processes where bottlenecks appear, reducing the time it takes to produce a vehicle without sacrificing quality and craftsmanship.
Customers use the system to follow the progress of their vehicles through the modification process via the company’s Web site.
“Our ability to build a quality product quickly and efficiently has always given us an edge,” Smith explains. "But our staff here at home and our representatives around the country have also contributed a huge amount to our success. Their honesty, integrity and general concern for our products and customers are absolutely vital to our survival in the current slate of the economy.”
Veterans of Lincoln’s QVM and Cadillac’s CMC programs, Royale builds Town Car and DeVille limousines, as well as Excursion limousines (now available in 140-inch stretches). The company’s popular Limobus line, which gives operators the ability to move larger groups comfortably, continues to grow and provided Royale a degree of stability when limousine sales plummeted immediately after 9/11.
While the quality of the finished product is what initially attracts customers, Steve Edelmann, Royale’s director of sales and marketing believes it is service support and the strength of his company’s warranty program that keeps them coming back.
“When you spend thousands of dollars each year to reach potential customers and maintain your existing client base, it only makes sense to back your products with a solid warranty program,” Edelmann notes, “Even the best-built limousines require adjustments at times. It’s the nature of the beast.
“The true test of a company is how determined it stands behind its products,” he adds. “Our new electrical system, for example, is backed by a lifetime warranty. We build it and we back it up. You don’t go through some third party vendor: it’s a Royale product.”