High Fuel Costs Spur Operator To Buy First MKZ Hybrid

Posted on April 20, 2011 by LCT Staff - Also by this author - About the author

ABOUT PHOTO: Pure Luxury CEO Gary Buffo looks forward to seeing how his green clientele responds to the Lincoln MKZ Hybrid, which is the most fuel efficient luxury black vehicle on the market today at 40+ mpg.

SUMMARY: Northern California’s Gary Buffo is taking a serious look at the mid-sized luxury sedan with good gas mileage as fuel prices take their toll.

PETALUMA, Calif. — At 65 vehicles, Gary Buffo runs one of the largest chauffeured operations in the San Francisco Bay Area, which is one of the most environmentally progressive areas of the U.S. with some of the highest average fuel prices.

So it made sense for the owner and CEO of PURE LUXURY TRANSPORTATION to buy a LINCOLN MKZ HYBRID sedan as an experiment of sorts: Will it save him money and will clients embrace a smaller luxury vehicle that spares some carbon emissions?

Buffo, who acquired the vehicle about three weeks ago, is still waiting for his vehicle licensing and permits before putting it on the road. Buffo bought the MKZ Hybrid for about $34,000 from sales manager Steve Wood at SOUTH BAY FORD near Los Angeles.

“It’s just a test vehicle,” Buffo said. “I’m not sure what clients will say and how they will react. We’re hoping that since this area is so focused on the environment with all the grape growing and wines, that people will buy into it. My staff is worried about clients liking it. We’re so used to these big vehicles.”

Buffo said spiraling fuel costs and client requests for a hybrid vehicle finally motivated him to buy the MKZ Hybrid. Pure Luxury paid 3% of its revenues for fuel in 2000; 9% in 2010; and now devotes a hefty 14.5% of sales revenue to fleet fuel costs.

“Fuel is out of control,” Buffo said. “There is only so much more that I can charge clients before I start losing business. We’re running at narrower margins now to make it work. We’ve got the volume, but we’re not making the profit we’re used to making.”

Pure Luxury has enacted an emergency fuel surcharge, which so far has not drawn any client complaints but only partially covers the higher fuel costs, Buffo said.

Pure Luxury will dedicate the MKZ Hybrid almost exclusively to single-passenger airport runs, Buffo said. “No way there is room for two people in an MKZ and their luggage.”

But, “If customers don’t have a problem with it, I’ll replace more vehicles with them.”

Buffo said he would consider the Toyota Avalon as a more economical alternative to Lincoln vehicles. “If the Avalon came out with rear passenger controllers and USB ports and cables and they built a hybrid, I honestly believe Toyota Avalon could take over the industry.”

— Martin Romjue, LCT editor

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