Operations

PR Nightmare — Super-Stretches Are Taking a Beating In the News

Sara Eastwood
Posted on November 1, 2005

Last month The Wall Street Journal published a front-page story called, “Limos Stretch Definition Of Luxury.” The article turns its attention to the “in-vogue” mega-stretches catering to the retail side of our business, which includes Hummer H2s and stretch SUVs.

Here are a few excerpts that highly exaggerate the actual situation: “The trouble started as soon as their ride pulled up to Ms. Chen’s Glendale, Calif., apartment building. The limousine, a 12-passenger Lincoln Town Car, was so long, it got hung up — ‘high-centered’ — on a slope in front of the building’s garage. The rear wheels weren’t even touching the ground. ‘It looked like a giant black teeter-totter…’” “…these leviathan limos are getting into all kinds of scrapes.” “…they’re driving up on curbs and falling into ditches when trying to maneuver around tight corners.” “…they’re hitting cars and a column on their way in (to a parking garage)…” “Limo makers may also be stretching the government’s patience. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is stepping up efforts to identify what one official at NHTSA described as ‘rogue’ stretch-limo makers who don’t follow safety standards.” “One of the company’s stretch limos got stuck a few years ago at an In-N-Out Burger in Orange County.” “Another problem area: the crowded, narrow streets of Little Italy in New York. Ken Strauch, who drives a stretched 31-foot Ford Excursion, says it took him at least 15 tiny, back-and-forth maneuvers earlier this summer to make it around a corner there, with a nervous out-of-town family in the back.” “Big limos are giving wedding planners another thing to worry about.” “On her big day, May Nunan had to hike up an alley in strapless heels in San Francisco’s Chinatown to get to her reception. Fearful of getting stuck, the limo driver refused to drop her at the restaurant. By the time she got to the reception [the bride] was sweating and her makeup was smeared.”

In my experience, the consumer press normally gravitates toward the extreme side of our industry and predictably, they sensationalize what’s wrong with it and fail to mention what’s right with it. It’s too bad because press like this will hurt sales. I am also disappointed because both my staff and myself invested many hours talking with the author of this article in hopes of moving the story away from an exposé. Instead, the good news was simply ignored.

The last thing we need is to have wedding planners and parents of prom-goers up in arms about the legitimacy of the limousine business. Articles like the one in the Wall Street Journal create a serious black eye to all of us. Let’s take action now! I encourage you to contact us with your positive stories. Not only do we need to let the world see us as upstanding business owners, but ones who actively work to ensure safety standards and proper chauffeur training practices as well as do philanthropic work with local charities.

I hope to have enough ammunition from all of you so I can create a presentation to send to the NLA’s public relations committee, headed by Gary Bauer, so they can get the truer story out about the professionalism and dedication of the chauffeured transportation industry to the major news editors around the country.

Sincerely, Sara Eastwood

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