No decision yet, but Ford has been meeting openly with industry groups and quietly with select operators to get feedback on a new model for the chauffeured transportation industry to debut for MY 2012.
NEW YORK CITY — The LUXURY BASE OPERATORS ASSOCIATION received an update and a few hints on the future of the Lincoln Town Car from Jeff Nichols, livery/limousine manager for Ford Motor Co., during its meeting in late March.
Operators have been anxious to hear word of a possible successor model for the livery industry since Ford has announced that the venerable Lincoln Town Car, long the staple of everyday chauffeured transportation, will be discontinued after the 2011 model year.
Nichols confirmed that the “E” platform on which the Lincoln Town Car is built will be eliminated in 2011. Ford is testing alternatives to the Town Car but is not ready to make any formal product announcements yet, Nichols said.
Nichols said there are several concept vehicles in the works and the replacement vehicle will be made known to the industry in late summer. The successor vehicle will evolve on the smaller "D" platform going forward. This means an overall decrease in the large car market size for the manufacturer. Nichols said Ford engines overall will become more fuel efficient with its "EcoBoost" design of turbochargers to maximize pulling power and fuel efficiency.
Nichols explained that Ford is dedicated to alternative fuels but that the company also must help develop a compressed natural gas (CNG) fueling infrastructure for such cars to succeed in the marketplace. He stressed Ford’s commitment to the chauffeured transportation industry and explained that Ford/Lincoln has seen sales of limousine and livery vehicles gain strength this year.
Ford is working to improve the quality of its longtime luxury Lincoln brand by adding new technology that was not previously available in the Town Car such as navigation systems, Nichols told LBOA members. Some operators in the association had seen a concept vehicle and were asked to comment on its viability in the New York market, but Nichols said that as of now Ford has not chosen a vehicle body type or model to replace the Town Car.
An LCTMAG.COM web page poll that asks operators whether they would prefer a sedan or cross-over utility model successor the Town Car so far has yielded 48 responses, with 73% favoring a sedan and 27% a CUV. The non-scientific preference poll will be ACTIVE ON LCTMAG.COM until Friday, April 30.
Liam Tobin and Seth Berman, board members of LBOA, queried the attendees to see if any had received tickets with the new distracted driving legislation. Dawson Rutter indicated that some of his New York chauffeurs had received tickets for using hand held devices such as cell phones. The association would like members and non-members to tell them if this occurs as they would like to keep a tally. The new legislation will allow operators to speak to dispatch but does not allow for hands-free electronic communication devices such as BlueTooth to be used.
Regulatory/legislative matters in New York City
• New York City Councilman Peter Vallone, Jr. told LBOA members that he thought the budget situation in the state capital of Albany was getting troublesome with expected budget cuts in New York City because of mandates. Vallone expects 3,000 police and firefighters to be cut if the budget stands as it is today. As the public safety chair on the council, Vallone said he would fight those cuts.
• Vallone said he believes that although former NYTLC Commissioner Matthew Daus got Avis to stop operating in New York City, it does not guarantee that they will not try again later to do business in NYC. He plans to submit a bill that would define the Avis WeDriveU model as chauffeured transportation which would require it to be regulated in the same fashion as all legal luxury limousine operations. LBOA will continue to work with the New York City Council to push this legislation.
• Vallone also touched on the recent change in the Taxi and Limousine Commissions leadership with former council member David Yassky being appointed as the new New York TLC Commissioner. Vallone believes that Yassky will be a friend to the chauffeured transportation industry and said the clear communication that existed between Daus and industry representatives will continue under Yassky.
— Reported by Linda Jagiela, LBOA public relations/communications
Additional sources: Philadelphia Regional Limousine Association; Martin Romjue, LCT Magazine
ABOUT PHOTO: Should a CUV like this one be the Town Car Successor? So far, about three-fourths of LCT readers polled say no.