That burning question is front and center at the upcoming LCT Technology Summit.
Diamond Coachbuilders of Chicago, founded by Robert Anderson and Tony Pusateri has been manufacturing limousines since early in 1981. Prior to this, Mr. Anderson was a Chicago-based owner operator for more than fifteen years In 1978, when the exterior features of Cadillac and Lincoln limousines from most of the major coachbuilders looked essentially the same, it was his desire to find a distinctive looking vehicle for his service. He designed a Lincoln with unique side privacy windows in the center section between the front and rear doors instead of the conventional large window It was not easy locating a coachbuilder willing to build such a limousine, but Bob finally acquired his special Lincoln. The limousine was not only attractive, it afforded extreme privacy for the passenger compartment
By 1980, there was such a demand for his services that Bob needed another custom limousine, but this time he would build his own. He gathered information and ideas from limousine operators and from his own experience, and collaborated with Tony Pusateri, a local custom car manufacturer with extensive experience and knowledge in building all types of vehicles. They decided to start out with a conventional-style limousine, with large side windows, but the interior was to incorporate many of the design ideas gathered from the limousine operators Instead of placing this vehicle into service, the completed vehicle was sold to a local operator Bob and Tony then formed a partnership and began building more limousines under the name Diamond Coachbuilders.
"The people in the industry who knew Tony and me were very supportive of us during those early years," says Anderson. "They knew that we would stand behind our cars, and they liked being able to order them directly from us instead of having to purchase from a dealer. " With their production facility in a busy limousine service area near O'Hare International Airport, they were conveniently located to meet the immediate demand from local limousine services. "Having a close bond with many of these people, we started to receive multiple orders I imagine this was due to the quality of the first few limousines we had built," says Anderson. "We knew that our cars would withstand the punishment which must be endured in the livery business and, five years later, this has become a proven fact. We still have all of our original customers with us to this day. "
After many months of working on the designs of Diamond Limousines, the two partners gradually began to specialize in their own areas of the operation with Bob handling the sales program and Tony managing the production facility. This is the way the company is structured today with Anderson serving as president and Pusateri as vice president.
Since the beginning, almost every Diamond limousine was sold before it could be completed. "The demand is incredible," says Pusateri. "We can't keep anything in inventory and even had to sell our demonstrator last month " Bob adds, "Because we are known for our unique design and unsurpassed quality, we tend to get buyers who want a limousine that will distinguish them from the competition. We certainly have been supported by the local trade and for this we are very appreciative. We haven't done too much promoting of our product in the past, relying mainly on 'word of mouth' advertising and our excellent reputation in the industry. " Most of Diamond's customers have dealt directly with the factory in the past, but now, in addition to the corporate headquarters near Chicago, the company has a number of authorized distributors as well as sales representatives in Seattle and San Francisco. Anderson is working to locate new dealerships across the country to sell and service Diamond limousines, and also plans to set up an international network.
Diamond's production has grown steadily each year since the company's beginning In '82, the company exhibited a forty-five inch custom stretch Cadillac limousine at the Chicago Auto Show where it sold within forty minutes of the show's opening. This was repeated the following year, and Diamond found itself beginning to receive orders from many new customers, including corporate executives looking for vehicles with exceptional privacy. Orders increased dramatically during '84, and a growth rate of more than fifty percent created the need for more production space. After moving into larger facilities three previous years, Diamond will relocate to a 60,000 square foot building in '86 in order to meet production demands. With rapidly growing marketing plans underway, the company expects to fill another 250 orders during '85.
"We give much of the credit for our success to hard work, quality control, good service and, most importantly, prompt delivery. A number of the key people in our operation are very dedicated Bob Jones, our general manager, is in charge of inventory and production control. He coordinates all departments and is constantly checking on each car to insure that it will be completed on schedule. Craig Korsgaard manages our trim department and oversees the quality of every interior component. Our office manager Judee Moncada handles many of our company's administrative duties, which Tony and I find very helpful. Craig and Judee have been with us since we opened our doors for business. We encourage our employees to suggest new ideas in design and production, and this produces a very comfortable working environment with little personnel turnover. It's kind of like running a family business. "
Quality and workmanship have been two major concerns as Diamond continues to face increasing production demands "We're growing as fast as we possibly can," says Tony, "and it's been like this for the past twelve months This is an exciting business and the possibilities are unlimited " The company constantly introduces efficiency-minded fabrication and installation techniques which management feels will increase production while maintaining the existing quality level.
"In the construction of our custom limousines," says Tony, "we feel it is absolutely necessary to use the highest quality materials available For example, our side panels, center reinforcements, and inner and outer rocker panels are made from a specially made, highly rust resistant material which is manufactured for us by a local supplier Another thing that we emphasize is the quality of our wiring harness which is controlled by a centrally located fuse panel Limousine operators tend to be very concerned about electrical systems when they buy a new limousine "
Diamond has established an excellent reputation in the Midwest. They primarily use Cadillac Fleetwoods, Lincoln Town Cars, and Oldsmobile 88 Royales as base units. Buyer interest in Oldsmobiles increased greatly in '85 and could account for as much as forty percent of the company's output this year. A complete Oldsmobile limousine can be purchased for under $30,000 Cadillac and Lincoln limousines range in price from $35,000 to $50,000 depending on optional equipment. Any of these cars are available in a forty-six inch stretch called the Executor, a fifty-two inch version called the Wellington, and a fifty-two inch double-cut known as the Diamond Tiara.
Currently in production is the new sixty-inch double-cut Tiara Elite. This conversion, when completed, will have its debut showing in the fall of '85 in Las Vegas, Atlantic City, and Miami. Anderson estimates that one out of every four '85 Diamond limousines will be a double-cut model in which six to ten inches are added between the rear door and the wheel well, giving more leg room and easier access.
All Diamond limousines have solid walnut consoles in either center or side location. Both are available at the same price and are custom-built for each car. The consoles combine ideas from Anderson's experience as a limousine owner, as well as suggestions from Diamond customers. They are designed so that every passenger can easily operate accessory controls.
Side consoles have become extremely popular in recent months. Bob attributes this to the designs which Diamond has developed. All of the side units have a tandem door which, when open, cannot be seen and, when closed, conceal the TV, radio, and control unit for the rear air conditioning and heating system. Other standard features on all Diamond conversions include a full vinyl top, conventional side windows, opera lights, heavy-duty suspension, passenger accessory control panel, imported crystal beverage service, pinstriping, side storage panels for decanters and/or ice tray, boomerang antenna, custom rear floor mats, passenger reading lights, and rear heat and air conditioning unit with an auxiliary cooling fan.
The most popular options are the power divider window, color television, stereo cassette player, intercom, and tinted windows. Anderson estimates that about half of this years orders will include the optional side privacy window treatment which has become Diamond's trademark. "In a world of generally uniform-appearing Cadillac and Lincoln limousines," says Anderson, "these smaller windows give a genuinely distinctive look, especially from the interior view. There is heavily padded velour around the windows, and passengers have a very comfortable feeling of seclusion while still enjoying full visibility to the outside."
Other options include a video cassette player/recorder, power moon roof, double privacy partition, two tone paint, solid wood storage drawers under the rear facing valet seats, custom wire wheels, oversized tires, and a stainless steel halo molding across the roof.
"Most of the cars that we have built were priced below $40,000 " according to Anderson "We don't work on an assembly line procedure here," he continues. "Each car is built to customer specifications with special attention given to interior appointments. We are not out to be the biggest coachbuilder in the world. Our goal has always been to build the finest quality limousine available When we sell a car, we want that customer to come back when he is ready to buy again. Repeat sales are the name of the game and the basis of our success. Many of our clients depend on our cars as their only source of income I know what it's like to be in their position, and Diamond Coachbuilders will continue our tradition of quality and excellence with every limousine we deliver."
That burning question is front and center at the upcoming LCT Technology Summit.
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