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Commonwealth Worldwide Fleet Manager Dan Coughlin picks up the Boston-based company's first two Chrysler 300 Limited sedans from Acton Fleet Sales in Acton, Mass. on Thursday, April 12, 2012.
BOSTON — One of the largest and oldest chauffeured operations in Boston bought two Chrysler 300 Limited sedans in the past week as it seeks a successor vehicle to its extensive fleet of Lincoln Town Car Executive L sedans.
Commonwealth Worldwide Chauffeured Transportation took delivery of the sedans from Acton Fleet Sales in Acton, Mass., the No. 1-ranked dealer for Lincoln limousine vehicles that also now sells the Chrysler 300 Limited to the chauffeured transportation market.
Commonwealth will test one 300 Limited in each of its home-base markets of Boston and New York, CEO Dawson Rutter told LCT. Rutter said he liked the look of the 300 while viewing vehicles on the trade floor of the International LCT Show in Las Vegas in February.
By coincidence, Rutter was picked up from the conference site at the MGM Grand Hotel in a Chrysler 300 by ODS Chauffeured Transportation to be chauffeured to the Las Vegas airport for his return flight. “I really liked it; the interior was comfortable and there was ample room in the backseat. There’s not that much less legroom than in a Town Car. . . We’re sending them out and seeing what the customers think.” Rutter also anticipates fuel savings resulting from the 300’s 26-28 mpg combined city/highway, and likes the extended warranty plan that covers 800+ individual parts.
Commonwealth has the Boston-based 300 fully licensed and will put it into service immediately. The New York-based 300 still needs registrations and licenses, so it will enter service within three weeks.
As of today, Commonwealth Worldwide operates a fleet of 145 chauffeured luxury vehicles in Boston and 85 in New York City. Of the 230-vehicle total fleet, 60% are Lincoln Town Car Executive L sedans. Lincoln retired that longtime livery model last year.
Like many limousine operators, Rutter is taking his time to test and evaluate different chauffeured vehicles before choosing a primary workhorse vehicle to succeed his Town Cars. Sedans being tested in the Commonwealth fleet include two Royale Lincoln MKZ Hybrid sedans (extended six inches) in Boston and one in New York; and three Lincoln MKS sedans each in Boston and New York. Rutter said he also wants to test out another industry newcomer in his fleet, the BMW 535i GT sedan, which also debuted at the International LCT Show. Commonwealth also runs 15 Mercedes-Benz S550 sedans and two R430s as part of its premium level vehicle service.
With an average Commonwealth fleet vehicle age of just over 10 months, Rutter said he doesn’t really need to choose a Town Car successor for at least another year. “We have a lot of time. We expect that this decision will evolve instead of be on a specific deadline. We won’t have any vehicle retirements this year because we bought so many new [Town Cars] last year. We’ll have a mixed fleet for the next few years until we find one vehicle that does the trick for us. There’s plenty of time for it all to sink in and see what customers like.”
Commonwealth Worldwide is considered to be one of the most prestigious and influential chauffeured vehicle operations in Boston and New York, with a wide global affiliate network built up since Rutter founded the company about three decades ago. Commonwealth is now highly sought after by smaller limousine companies for affiliate and farm-in work.
Any vehicle purchasing decisions by large influential operators such as Rutter will be closely watched industry-wide, as the vehicle preferences of larger chauffeured transportation operations have the potential to influence the vehicle purchases of smaller limousine companies that belong to their nationwide affiliate networks.
Commonwealth Worldwide will test the Chrysler 300 Limited sedan in its fleets in Boston and New York.
The willingness of Rutter to seriously test market the Chrysler 300 Limited also underscores the fluidity of the chauffeured vehicle market this year, which offers more choices and variety than ever before. Many limousine operators are exploring multiple vehicle options in the wake of the retirements of the Lincoln Town Car Executive L and Cadillac DTS last year.
Chrysler announced shortly before the International LCT Show in February that it was offering its luxury sedan to the limousine industry. It now competes with the two leading domestic brand newcomers, the Lincoln MKT Town Car, released to dealers and first operator buyers in mid-March, and the Cadillac XTS sedan, which will be landing at dealerships in May.
This is the first time that all of Detroit’s “Big 3” are vying for share in the chauffeured transportation market with next-generation vehicles via formal livery vehicle buyer programs. Their competition for the limo/livery market share has proven more robust than first expected and is another sign of the strong comeback for GM and Chrysler following government bailouts in 2009. (Ford Motor Co. did not require government bailout loans).
Rutter, however, has ruled out one fleet vehicle option for sure: the 2013 Lincoln MKT Town Car. Despite being a longtime Lincoln loyalist, Rutter said he cannot bring himself to consider the MKT a luxury vehicle, given its shape. “It’s a crossover, something between a sedan and a Caravan.”