Industry Research

— 30 —

Martin Romjue
Posted on February 13, 2013

I started my career during the last gasps of an old media world, where the number — 30 — at the bottom of a printed page meant “End of Story.” It signaled to editors and news page paginators (anyone under the age of 30 heard of them?) that no more words were forthcoming from the reporter. It was time to size up the columns and go to press.

LCT hits 30 years this month, and in many ways the timing of this anniversary coincides with a big “30” mark for the limousine industry. The end of a news story simply means that’s all there is to say that day; tomorrow will bring another story. In that sense, a story is more like a chapter, ending for only a brief period until the next one can be told.

The limousine industry is at a major “30” transition point, with old tales told and new ones waiting. LCT’s anniversary in 2013 wraps up a lot of endings, with some more welcome than others, but all leading to big changes.

Lincoln Town Cars: That story is definitely over, with the retirement of the wide, sturdy stalwart of a sedan that dominated the limousine industry for two decades. The passing of the Town Car feels like losing those first generation Pan Am Clipper jets, the Boeing 707s and original 747s with the legroom, food and classy service that once defined air travel. (I remember those planes from my youth, when my family dressed up for a red-eye across the Atlantic). The new story here is that we now see a free-for-all vehicle market, one that includes the crossover styled MKT Town Car vying in a wide field of more choices and competitors. This is one new story that will take a long time to write.

Great Recession Gone: Thank goodness that drama is over, for now. Reflecting the wider improvement in the industry, LCT Magazine returns to its first full-agenda year since 2008: 12 issues and three events: International LCT Show, Leadership Summit and LCT Show East. We’re seeing the number of limousine operators and vendors grow again, and more industry sales across the board.

Back to the Future: One reason LCT returns to Atlantic City, N.J., for its East Coast Show is because our main competitor for the last 21 years decided last year to move its annual trade show out of there. Definitely the end of one story, driven by a tawdry tabloidy tale and a split partnership, but also a continuance of an even older story: LCT launched the first major industry trade show in Atlantic City in 1984.

Limousine Manufacturing: Stories can have shocking endings, and none have been more so than the bankruptcies, closures and/or acquisitions of some venerable coachbuilders in the last few years. Stronger economic and purchasing forces are reshaping the vehicle market. The old line-up of coachbuilders is now giving way to more OEM chauffeured vehicles and custom conversion coachbuilders focused on minibuses and unique stretch limousines. As a result, some new stories emerge, as evidenced by our January issue cover story on Quality Coachworks and this issue’s cover on Royale Limousine Manufacturers — two leading coachbuilders innovating for shifting vehicle demands.

Engines of Change: Politically incorrect car buffs will lament the passing of the V-8 engine and E-sized platform (see Town Car) as technology refinements make the V-6 the new V-8. Chauffeured vehicles are narrower and smaller as the big boat era of luxury cars ends. This story has a good ending in that vehicles run more efficiently with less fuel and offer all types of compensating smart technologies and sight lines that create the illusion of more space. But the demise of the big V-8 domestic sedans brings a kind of mournful ending, as well. Downsized luxury goes only so far; size, space, smoothness and comfort can be recreated to an extent on smaller vehicles, but it doesn’t feel as natural. A Hampton Inn can use the same quality mattress and thread counts on a King bed as the Ritz-Carlton, and you may sleep just the same, but you still wake up feeling like you’re in a Hampton Inn.

There are plenty more stories coming to an end after 30 years, too lengthy to recount here. Better yet, new ones are getting written going forward. One industry story we hope to tell you more of is the growing professionalism and clout of the chauffeured transportation industry on the national stage.

In the last 30 years, the industry has become a more diverse, seasoned, grown-up transportation sector taking on the branding aura of Ritz-Carlton, Singapore Airlines and Godiva. Serious economic and regulatory challenges still lie ahead. To make headway, the industry will need to put its most professional approach and ethical image out there.

Without a doubt, the National Limousine Association and LCT Magazine, along with our co-produced International LCT Shows, are the two organizations which own that story. It’s a story with plenty of plot twists left and facts to unfold, and should be a long way from a “30.”

Martin Romjue
LCT editor
[email protected]

Related Topics: anniversaries, bankruptcy, economic recovery, industry events, LCT editor, LCT Magazine, Lincoln Town Car, Martin Romjue, National Limousine Association

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