L.A.’s Chris Hundley says so far, so good running an experimental MKS sedan.
LOS ANGELES — Will chauffeured clients put more of a premium on body style or cargo space? That seems to be the defining question for operators when comparing the Lincoln MKS sedan with the cross-over-utility styled Lincoln MKT Town Car, to succeed the Lincoln Town Car Executive L.
The 2013 Lincoln MKT Town Car of course will have 40% more cargo space than that of the outgoing Town Car Executive L, but slightly less legroom. The MKS maintains a sleek sedan body style, but with less legroom and far less trunk space than both the MKT and the Town Car.
Operator Chris Hundley of Limousine Connection in North Hollywood, Calif., is weighing all those pros and cons while trying out his first Lincoln MKS sedan. It’s not an official Limousine & Livery Fleet Vehicle being promoted by Ford Motor Co., so it lacks the standard fleet warranties. Yet it has intrigued at least a handful of chauffeured transportation operators, including industry heavyweight Dawson Rutter, CEO of Boston-based Commonwealth Worldwide Chauffeured Transportation.
Hundley bought his first MKS from South Bay Ford in mid-May as a replacement for one of his Town Cars that was totaled in a freak accident at a car wash on April 16. The Town Car got sandwiched between two SUVs in a row of drying vehicles when a third SUV being moved out of the automatic car wash got its accelerator stuck and shot into the rearmost parked SUV, causing a chain reaction smash-up. Hundley’s fleet Town Car looked as if it had been rear-ended at 40 mph. No one was hurt.
“I felt that for me it was too late to buy another 2011 Town Car and I had enough SUVs,” said Hundley of his 28-vehicle fleet. “But I needed a car. The MKS has been running in the East, and clients are OK with them. I also looked at the R-Class Mercedes-Benz; it has the Mercedes-Benz cachet, but not a comfortable second row seat.”
So far, Hundley has used the MKS for mostly corporate airport clients, one or two at a time with luggage. “The trunk is acceptable,” Hundley said of its long, flat shape. “It’s not a Town Car trunk, but nothing else is. There is nothing is like the Town Car anymore. I was concerned I would get push back, but haven’t heard that yet.” Hundley quickly adds that he would not send the MKS out on a three-passenger run, as he would the Town Car. [The Lincoln MKT Town Car, to be released in 2012, can accommodate three passengers and chauffeur comfortably].
Hundley reports that so far no clients have complained when the MKS shows up unannounced instead of a Town Car.
“[The MKS] is a Lincoln, it’s luxurious, it’s smaller. . . but the new world will be smaller,” he said. “I try not to assign [the MKS] to a chauffeur over six feet tall. I like to give it to one who is 5’6” or 5’8” so the driver’s seat is moved up.”
The MKS generates enough revenues so far to support its operational and labor costs and yield a profit, Hundley said. He charges the same rate for the MKS as a Town Car. The V-6 MKS with Ford’s trademark EcoBoost gets slightly better gas mileage than the V-8 Town Car.
Hundley calls himself a “Lincoln loyalist” and plans to eventually replace at least a portion of his Lincoln Town Car Executive Ls with the Lincoln MKT Town Car. But he is not sure how many MKTs he will get versus other brands.
“I believe in [Lincoln’s] product,” Hundley said. “[The MKT] could go either way. It remains to be seen. I’m waiting on the Cadillac XTS to see how it plays out, since it is a sedan.” Hundley, who has been in business since 1978, won’t predict how the livery vehicle market will shape up between Lincoln and Cadillac and among newer livery competitors such as Mercedes-Benz, Toyota/Lexus, and Hyundai. “I’m concerned the industry will become fragmented as far as vehicles go.”
— Martin Romjue, LCT Magazine