A friend recently visited an automobile dealership and experienced an all too common problem that will take time to solve in this maturing limousine industry. The dealership had a new stretch limousine on display and, after my friend asked several of the salespeople questions about the car, it became evident that no one had any idea what the price of the car was, who manufactured it, or any other key details relating to the sale of the stretched vehicle. This is unfortunate because both a potential customer, and a selling dealer, lost because of the lack of training on the part of the dealer and the coachbuilder.
As coachbuilders expand, it is only natural that they set up dealer networks to handle sales and service. Limousine operators claim they are forced to pay higher prices due the addition of a third party. Many limousine manufacturers, on the other hand, claim dealers are a necessity since they can provide a myriad of significant services locally for a limousine operator whose most dreaded word is “downtime.”
While the Cadillac and Lincoln divisions have asked for cooperation among their dealers for the servicing of limousine warranty problems which are not related to the stretching of the vehicle, dealers remain basically independent of the factories, and the responsibility for limousine warranty work is still a gray area. Can you really blame some of these dealers who are liability conscious and yet naïve of these stretched monsters coming into their service facility? On the other hand, if a limousine operator purchased his limousine from a knowledgeable, quality dealer, the chance of his having a servicing problem would be significantly reduced.
The key here is training the new car dealer on the appropriate sales and servicing techniques of the vehicles he is marketing. As the industry grows, dealers will play a greater role. Limousine manufacturers will become just that – manufacturers. Dealers and distributors will be the sales and servicing arms working hand in hand with limousine purchasers. In all likelihood, everyone will be a winner when knowledgeable and efficient dealerships are available to serve limousine operators.
Coachbuilders, if they are to survive in the world of dealer sales representatives, need to develop comprehensive training programs that encompass all aspects of sales and service. The customer deserves the very best when his dollar investment is on the line for his livelihood. We’re not talking about some self-service department store buy: we’re talking about a $35,000 to $40,000 investment!
Many coachbuilders are indeed working diligently to develop a solid, quality dealer network. That’s not to say that other coachbuilders don’t deliver a quality product. But a limousine purchaser should indeed look beyond the pure dollar figure and determine what is best for his needs. He should not necessarily look at limousine dealers in a negative way, but should see beyond to the benefits they have to offer.