Hybrid Sedan Helps Operator Overcome Concerns

Posted on April 27, 2011 by LCT Staff - Also by this author - About the author

Another San Francisco Bay Area operator buys his first hybrid sedan, which is saving him $900 per month in fuel costs.

SOUTH SAN FRANCISCO, Calif. — Larry Charlton thought his customers would resist his first mid-sized hybrid sedan, a 2010 Royale Ford Fusion Hybrid L, which joined his fleet full-time a few weeks ago.

After 22 years running ASPEN A-PLUS TRANSPORTATION, Charlton had only provided clients with large Lincoln Town Car sedans, SUVs, stretch limousines, and other large vehicles typical of chauffeured service in his 12-vehicle fleet, based a short distance from San Francisco International Airport.

LCT reported last week that Gary Buffo of Pure Luxury Transportation in Petaluma, Calif., BOUGHT HIS FIRST HYBRID VEHICLE.

“We’re using it quite a bit and everyone seems to like the car,” Charlton said. “I thought I’d get some resistance, but many couldn’t believe it was a Ford and a luxury car. The legroom in back is amazing. I don’t see it as a replacement for the Town Car, but as an addition to our fleet. It’s a great car.”

Charlton officially bought the Royale Fusion on March 4 from the STAR FORD LINCOLN dealership in Glendale, Calif., where Barbara Papp has been the longtime livery fleet vehicle sales manager. He said it cost about the same as a Lincoln Town Car Executive L. He had to wait several weeks for California PUC and SFO approvals before the sedan was available beyond A/D runs early this month.

The Hybrid L Fusion was built by ROYALE LIMOUSINE, a limousine coachbuilder based in Haverhill, Mass., which debuted the vehicle at the LCT Eastern Conference in October 2009. Royale made industry history by taking the Fusion and stretching it six inches, thereby creating rear-seat legroom only slightly below that of a Lincoln Town Car Executive L. Royale stretches the chassis six inches both on its FORD HYBRID L FUSION and the more luxurious Lincoln cousin, the LINCOLN HYBRID L MKZ. A non-stretched Lincoln MKZ Hybrid is officially part of the Ford Fleet Limousine & Livery Vehicles line-up.

Charlton reports that his Fusion hybrid has been averaging 38.5 miles per gallon. It uses about 200 gallons per month of regular unleaded fuel at a cost of $4.50 per gallon, the price as of today where Aspen A-Plus is based. Charlton estimates one of his Town Cars averages 400 gallons per month, resulting in a savings of about $900 per month.

About 80% of Charlton’s Fusion clients so far are corporate single-passengers, usually heading to and from area airports. “The luggage area is fine for one person,” Charlton said. “They’re not vacationers with lots of bags, just people with one carry-on for the trunk.” Charlton said the one drawback he has observed is the limited rear seat headroom for very tall passengers.

Charlton explored the idea of getting his first hybrid for several reasons, most notably possible stricter carbon emissions rules at SFO, client requests for green vehicles, and the spike in fuel prices, which has been worse in California than in most other parts of the U.S.

“With the airport talking about sanctions that may come to pass, there have been many requests from Stanford University and biotech companies for green vehicles,” Charlton said. “Then gas started going up, and if you put a pencil to it, if you use the car properly, the fuel savings can pay for the car. And with lower emissions, it was a win-win all around.”

“I’m ready for another one.”

-- Martin Romjue, LCT editor

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