NEW YORK CITY — For operator Patrick Farrell, a signature fleet of dark blue Cadillac sedans with light blue tops have branded and identified his company on the streets of Manhattan for more than four decades.
“We’ve always used the blue as trademark to differentiate ourselves form the rest of the crowd in a sea of black cars,” said Farrell, a managing director of Farrell’s Limousine Service of New York, an 83-vehicle operation founded by his father, Michael, in 1968.
A decision by Cadillac last fall to end the dark blue paint option on the DTS sedan hits the heart of such chauffeured operations, such as Farrell’s, that have traditionally defined their images through dark blue luxury vehicles.
“For us, it’s a big change,” said Richard Kane, CEO of International Limousine Service of Washington, D.C., a 39-year-old company that his father, Eugene I. Kane, acquired in 1979. “A lot of our branding at airports and downtown is based on our clients knowing who we are when we show up. On any day, you knew where you car was in a line of [black] cars.”
Farrell and Kane both now face the prospects of either paying for the dark blue paint option or joining the rest of the black crowd, forgoing the distinct branding and marketing that have carried their companies for decades.
Farrell’s Limousine Service has 45 dark blue Cadillac DTS sedans. ILS has 22 dark blue DTS sedans out of a fleet of 121 vehicles. Soon, six of those DTS sedans will be black. ILS also operates one dark blue Mercedes S550 sedan.
Cadillac Professional Vehicles said it had to get rid of the dark blue option for its 2010 and 2011 model year DTS sedans because General Motors is streamlining production of the model as it prepares for a new successor sedan model in 2012.
Although unfortunate for those fleets that distinguish themselves with this color, it is common practice for OEMs to lessen the number of options available as the lifecycle of the vehicle winds down, according to Cadillac Professional Vehicles. This color was one of the options eliminated in 2010. General Motors personnel reviewed the order banks prior to the decision being made and only a few livery operators and funeral homes were using this combination.
Operators can still pay to have a Cadillac DTS sedan painted dark blue through any Cadillac Master Coachbuilder. The DTS is still available in a total of nine exterior colors and five interior colors.
On behalf of operators and coachbuilders, Cadillac tried to work out a “batch-building” of the dark blue sedans at GM’s DTS plant, but several production complications precluded that option. While the plant was willing to build dark blue sedans at set periods twice per year, not enough customers are able to commit to orders only twice per year, and the chassis can only be built to a maximum capacity each week, Cadillac said.
Farrell, who has a few DTS sedans on order and plans to acquire another 10-12 replacement sedans this year, said he hopes to avoid having to pay for the dark blue option and resolve the matter with Cadillac. “We’re hoping Cadillac will realize the value of the customers that have been with them for 42 years,” Farrell said. “We’ll figure out a way to get our blue.”
Source: Martin Romjue, LCT Magazine