The Making of an Ideal Limousine Dealer

LCT staff
Posted on January 1, 1988

The Limousine Center, Inc. has precisely what you want in a limousine dealer: full service. It had to happen, and Jeff Gordon did it with the Limousine Center. Lo­cated in Lynn, MA, the Limousine Center was the nation's first full- service pre-owned and new limou­sine dealership.

Founder Jeff Gordon has been working with cars since he was a teenager. By the time he was in his early twenties, he was professionally building and racing AA/FC Funny Cars, which ran in excess of 225 mph. It was obvious that his next step would be getting involved with au­tomobiles as a career.

In 1974, Jeff owned a large used luxury car wholesale business specializing in pre-owned Cadillacs, Lincolns, Jaguars, and Mercedes.

"Although we dealt with many lux­ury cars, our first contact with limou­sines was with the older formals. In 1975, I bought a '62 Cadillac For­mal," Jeff says. "By 1982, I was buy­ing and selling all types of luxury cars until the tail began to wag the dog. By 1984, over 60 percent of our business was in limousine sales. This boom resulted in the official opening of the Limousine Center which not only sold pre-owned and new limou­sines, but serviced them as well."

After six months, the company moved into a new location, right out­ side of Boston. At that time, Jim Arm­ strong joined the Limousine Center to establish a regional sales program. Having been in the livery business for six years, Jim was aware of the problems the limousine industry was experiencing and began to imple­ment a full-service maintenance pro­ gram "in-house." Hence, operators could now buy the kind of limousine they wanted and have it serviced all in one place.

"Over the last six years the limou­sine industry has experienced tremendous growth in both private and commercial use," Jeff explains. "Every year, more new and used limousines are sold, only for the own­ers to discover that without the right sources, their new investments may end up on a dead-end street. This is one of the many reasons that we have dedicated our expertise strictly to limousines, especially pre-owned vehicles. We have complete in-house capabilities to refurbish and upgrade pre-owned limousines, convert interi­ors from center console to side con­ sole, or just enhance the interior with halo lights or one of our other acces­sories."

After taking a hard look at the over­ all needs of limousine owners, Jeff realized that they needed a lot of as­sistance.

"They desperately needed a place to get their vehicles serviced, to pur­chase accessories and, most impor­tantly, a place to trade in their older limos for either new or used limos. They needed a full-service, depend­ able dealer," explains Jeff. "So, we created one. Although there are many dealers selling limousines, very few are willing to take trade-ins. The Limousine Center welcomes them because we have the facilities to to­tally refurbish them."

Although there were a few other companies dealing with a similar con­cept, the Limousine Center remains the only dealer in the country to offer limousines manufactured by six different coachbuilders. Presently, the Limousine Center can sell any type of limousine - new, pre-owned, or custom built - that fits exactly the client's needs and budget.

With trends in the limousine indus­try ever growing and changing, what was yesterday considered "stan­dard" is obsolete today. Therefore, the Limousine Center is constantly educating their clients and staff to the latest technologies. With every limou­sine that is sold, a four-hour class on the limousine business is given which includes a videotape and an open question and answer session.

"We will do everything in our pow­er to make each client successful in the business," Jeff says. "We are all very interested in their concerns, and we understand that this is a major in­ vestment and could easily be their sole livelihood. On the other hand, if the vehicle is intended for private use, we take every precaution to en­ sure the vehicle suits the exact re­quirements of the individual. As an added incentive, we will even pick up the cost of airfare to our showroom upon purchase of any of our limousines."

The Limousine Center is one of the few dealerships which specializes in sales, leasing, rentals, trades, cos­metic repairs, and accessories for pre-owned and new limousines. The Limousine Center primarily deals with pre-owned vehicles (There are al­ ways 25 in stock.)

Presently, the Limousine Center has a complete showroom and lot filled with over 15 new limousines from various coachbuilders including Ultra, DaBryan, Executive, Allen, Brougham, American Custom Coach, and their own private label. "We not only offer a wider selection than most, but provide a year-round private showroom for both limousines and accessories," adds Jeff.

One of the manufacturers that the Limousine Center has become in­volved with is Ultra Limousine Cor­poration of La Palma, CA. Together, they have designed and built one of the most versatile limousines in the marketplace.

"Our relationship with Ultra allows a free exchange of design ideas be­tween our companies," says Jim Armstrong. "A prime example is the five-door, 24-hour limousine that also serves as a funeral limousine.

"As everyone knows, the funeral limousine has three forward facing seats," Jim Armstrong continues. "Our concept was to convert the center seat so, with a minor adjust­ment, the center seat could easily reverse its position from front-facing to rear-facing. This new rear-facing adjustment and position allowed the funeral limousine to instantly convert to the 24-hour limousine. We concep­tualized and Ultra produced. The end result is a very popular twist seating."

This particular innovation is one of many exciting limousines that Ultra has manufactured in recent years. An experienced builder of super stretch limousines (113-inch and 35-foot limousines), Ultra predicts that these vehicles are the limousines for 1988.

The newest addition to the Limou­sine Center's line is C & C Profession­ al Vehicles of Ferris, TX. After many hours of work and research together, they designed and built a new six- door, 54-inch stretch limousine, as well as a matching hearse, available on both Cadillac and Lincoln. Both vehicles debuted at the National Funeral Directors Show in Salt Lake City, UT and received rave reviews from those in attendance.

With over 15 professional vehicles in stock, the Limousine Center has become one of the premier dealers in the country. While many limousine dealers would have shied away from such an undertaking, the Limousine Center welcomed the challenge and has since been hired to design and build many custom vehicles.

"The Limousine Center is now put­ ting the final touches on our national sales program, which includes vari­ous satellite locations, so that every­ one across the country can take advantage of our expertise," says Jim Armstrong.

After many months of travel throughout the country meeting with numerous conversion specialists, the Limousine Center recently contract­ed Brougham Coach Company of New Jersey to build their shell units (Unfinished vehicles with no interiors or electrics.) Brougham's quality, all- steel construction, and triple rein­ forced center panels are handmade at the factory, not pre-fabricated. Another deciding factor for the Limousine Center was Brougham's suspension system. Original heavy- duty springs are replaced with a spe­cially designed system which offers reliable, rugged durability for long life and comfort.

The Limousine Center is an autho­rized service center for all of the brands it sells as well as for numer­ous other coachbuilders that do not have agents in the Boston area.

"We have a 30-day warranty on our pre-owned limousines and a one- year renewable warranty is also avail­ able," says Jeff. "We handle fleet maintenance for several larger limou­sine companies in the New England area, and are planning to add a Mo­ bile Limo repair unit."

In building the Limousine Center's professional scope, Jeff and his staff travel nationwide visiting coach- builders, their manufacturing facili­ties, and attending limousine and funeral association trade shows.

Recent growth within the compa­ny has led to the addition of Rusty Church, manager of the recondition­ing division; Grant Ricker, manager of the service and body repair shop; David Alexander in the sales depart­ment; Jim Martini, manager of the upholstery shop; and Scott Gayton as transportation manager. Collec­tively, they represent over 30 years of experience in their respective fields.

In addition to the many service departments within the Limousine Center, Michele Gordon has opened a sister company called LimoLease.

"To better service our growing clientele, we now offer limousines for rent to the trade while their vehicles are being serviced," explains Michele. "This provides an excellent alternative to the operators during their downtime."

Less easy is making a well- informed choice from among the 35 or so limousine manufacturers and dealers. Jeff encourages individuals to do some homework before they decide to purchase a limousine.

"Many people try to evaluate a limousine by the looks," Jeff says. "This is next to impossible unless you are an expert engineer. The best thing is to do some investigation and ask a lot of questions. We help peo­ple keep utility and function in mind in their decision-making process. With our full service, one-stop ap­proach, we are better able to assist our clients. Consequently, we are not only building the nation's largest pre- owned and new dealership, we are building the best," Jeff declares.

"One-stop Full-Service"

"Limousine owner/operators are busi­ness people above all," Jeff Gor­don explains. "They invest their time and money knowing a maximum return on their investment is the name of the game. Ulti­mately, the dealer who really wants to serve the operator must help him save not only time, but money as well. Every time an operator visits a dealership, he should add to his own profit potential,"

According to Gordon, there are five ele­ments in the "One-stop Full Service concept":

  • Selling the right limousine to meet the operator's needs and budget.
  • Providing accessories, service, and repair facilities in one central location.
  • Training the operator to maximize his profit potential.
  • Supporting the operator/customer with back-up lease vehicles for over-bookings,
  • Offering complete financing packages (purchase, open-end, or close-end leases).

Related Topics: Boston operators, operator profiles

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