GET ‘EM N’ GO: With the Executive L in its final model year and the MKT on the way, operators are stampeding to dealerships to get their orders taken. Ford Motor Co. responds with increased production capacity.
ACTON, Mass. — Ford/Lincoln fleet dealers nationwide are seeing a mad rush this quarter from operators who are either stocking up on 2011 Lincoln Town Car Executive Ls or finally replacing earlier model year versions that are all tapped out.
“We’re up 160% over last year,” said Bill Cunningham, general manager of fleet sales at ACTON LINCOLN MERCURY in Acton, Mass. “It’s ridiculous; we can’t get cars fast enough.”
Not that Cunningham, or any dealer for that matter, is complaining. Such strong sales are cause for an exuberant Thanksgiving and a joyful Christmas season this year among industry Lincoln dealers, compared to the dismal recession year of 2009.
As Cunningham describes it, there are three factors at play here in the rush for 2011 Town Car Executive Ls: 1) Operators have been running their previous model year Town Cars longer and harder to get through the recession and must now replace them; 2) Business has picked up for operators nationwide since late 2009, and they must add to their fleets; 3) Operators in love with the Town Car want to get as many last ones as possible before phasing in the 2013 Lincoln MKT livery version, which Ford Motor Co. announced in September as the successor to the Town Car.
“I figured [sales] would be in this range,” Cunningham said. “The market is ready to go. Customers for the first time ever have their trade-ins paid off, they have equity in the vehicles, and they have enjoyed running their cars with no monthly payments. I knew it would be a matter of time before they started buying.” He said Acton is getting Town Car trade-ins with 300,000 to 400,000 miles on them.
With more cash on the sidelines, operators are buying new vehicles with larger down payments and shorter loan terms, Cunningham said. Acton is selling Town Cars to operators before the vehicles are even on the lot, while logging months worth of orders, he said.
In response to higher anticipated demand for the Town Car, the Ford Motor Co. decided to increase the number of 2011 model year vehicles it will produce between now and August 2011.
Brad Roney, commercial pool account manager for Ford Motor Co. and manager of the limousine/livery program, told LCT on Tuesday that Lincoln has authorized a 40% increase in production of the long wheel-based Lincoln Town Car, including the Executive L model, for the 2011 model year.
Based on long range sales forecasts, the availability may still be limited but the supply looks much better than it did a few weeks ago, Roney said. “This is good news for the industry, good news for Town Car sales, and it helps us more effectively bridge the gap between Job Last on the Town Car and Job 1 on the MKT livery vehicle.”
At STAR AUTO GROUP in Glendale, Calif., near Los Angeles, commercial livery manager Barbara Papp said the Town Car Ls and Navigator Ls are “flying out the door.” She reports 4Q livery fleet sales at her dealership up a whopping 250% compared to 4Q 2009.
“Navigators, Town Cars. . . we can’t keep them in stock,” Papp said. “The Navigators go before they come in. Everyone is just buying them up.”
Papp attributed some of the sales frenzy to the fact that Lincoln is skipping the 2012 model year for a luxury livery vehicle as it ramps down production of the 2011 Town Car Executive L and begins production in 1Q 2012 of the 2013 Lincoln MKT livery version. Like Cunningham, Papp is keeping a long list of Town Car and Navigator orders.
Down the road at SOUTH BAY FORD in Hawthorne, Calif., just outside Los Angeles, vice president Steve Wood describes his year over year sales comparisons as “night and day.”
“Last year was a tentative year,” Wood said. “There was a lot of doubt in people’s minds. Because of the economy, businesses were struggling and [operators] waited more than 24 months to keep their vehicles longer and pay them down.
“Many operators are trading out of 2006 and 2007 models, and want to freshen up their fleets a bit until the MKT gets here.” Wood reports bulk orders of the Town Car Executive L ranging from two to 50, depending on the size of the chauffeured transportation company. “Nothing is sitting around here.”
David Bastian, commercial sales manager of TOWNE AUTOMOTIVE GROUP in Orchard Park, N.Y., said he is selling inventory before it comes in. Bastian sent an e-mail to past and prospective clients suggesting that they plan ahead. “I had a feeling this would happen,” said Bastian of brisk sales. “I’m getting limousine companies calling for vehicles, not just one or two, but they are buying three, four, five six, 8, 10 at a time. What ends up happening is, once the cars hit the lot, they are already sold.
“Many companies are looking to replace old units,” Bastian said. “We’re seeing many 07s coming in on trade, more than the 08s. There are a lot of companies out there that want to get the last Town Cars before they go away. There’s pent up demand and a desire to have one last Town Car before heading into the future.”
Bastian reports that Towne’s luxury/livery fleet sales have doubled in this quarter when compared to 4Q 2009. Some of the larger operators that once were used to buying 30 to 40 Town Cars at a time now are putting in orders of 10 at a time at any dealerships they can find because of tight inventory and order backlogs, Bastian said.
“We’ll be lucky if we have Town Cars until the fall of 2011 if demand keeps going the way it’s been,” Bastian said. “If operators need cars in March or April, they should talk to dealers now. You should plan a month or two in advance. Odds are there’s not going to be a car just sitting there [on the lot].”
[This article will be updated with information from REPUBLIC FORD LINCOLN MERCURY in Republic, Missouri as it becomes available].
— Martin Romjue, LCT Magazine