California operator Bill Wheeler recently bought 30 BMW 740Li sedans, which will round out his luxury fleet that includes Grech buses and Temsa motorcoaches.
PLEASANTON, Calif. — Three-decade operator Bill Wheeler did his research for the last few years before settling on the 2015 BMW 740Li sedan as his go-to workhorse luxury sedan.
Wheeler, owner and CEO of Black Tie Transportation Worldwide in Pleasanton, literally tested out all other luxury makes and models in his fleet that are competing for the sedan slice of the chauffeured vehicle market. But the 740Li proved to be the right balance of price, performance, amenities, and customer appreciation.
Wheeler closed an estimated $2 million deal this month with the Limousine & Hotel Shuttle Program of BMW North America to buy 30 of the premium luxury sedans. It is the largest single-order of the 740Li livery sedan to date through the official BMW program. The vehicles will be delivered in April and enter fleet service after getting state licenses. He plans to order another 10 in the months ahead.
“No customer has ever said, ‘Do not bring the BMW,” said Wheeler, whose company is based in Pleasanton, which lies in a wealthy suburban corridor in the East Bay region home to many San Francisco and Silicon Valley technology executives and workers. “The 740Li is the Lincoln Town Car for Europe, with proven reliability and dependability.”
The 740Li long wheelbase sedan matches the former Lincoln Town Car Executive L sedan in rear seat legroom and provides a smoother, quieter ride, Wheeler said. “Our clients are high end so we want to offer them a premium product.”
Black Tie’s 100-vehicle fleet handles up to about 200 runs per day, including a high volume of airport sedan trips to Oakland, San Jose and San Francisco international airports. It also provides luxury group transportation for a heavy corporate clientele with its Temsa mid-coaches and Grech Motors cutaway buses, now regarded as the top luxury bus brands in the chauffeured transportation industry.
BMW of North America has worked hard in the last two years to court the elite, premium chauffeured service market with aggressive incentives and volume discounting. So far, BMW has landed such prominent limousine company clients as Empire CLS, Boston Coach, La Costa Limousine, Alpine Limousine and LTI Worldwide.
BMW’s limousine key account manager, Marco Schneider, traveled to Pleasanton in February to arrange the deal and ensure Black Tie gets needed maintenance and service at a local BMW dealership. What is remarkable about Wheeler’s fleet change is that he’s using the BMW 740Li to replace the Lincoln Town Car, not the Mercedes-Benz S550, which is the closest competitor to BMW in the chauffeured sedan market, Schneider said.
BMW sells the 740Li with a livery base price of $64,260 plus a destination charge of $950, and a training fee of $180, Schneider said. BMW also offers a rising scale of discount incentives based on volume, with further rebates kicking in at orders of five, 10 and 15 vehicles. The model has an MSRP of about $78,000.
Wheeler told LCT he got his BMWs for about $60,000 each. So one obvious question for a limo operator is how to ensure consistent profit margins when replacing a $40,000 Town Car with a $60,000 BMW?
Black Tie raised its rates, with a one-way transfer now averaging about $180, Wheeler replied. “Our clients are not really that price sensitive. Our customers are getting a premium price with premium service. It’s a world class vehicle. We’ve been doing that for more than 25 years (since 1986). Everything must be perfect.”
An added appeal to the BMW is that it is “an elegant ride without being overstated,” Wheeler added, citing a consumer preference that has become more pronounced in the post-recession environment. “It’s not quite as flashy as a Mercedes-Benz.”
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