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“At Marquis, we’re as much concerned with the driver as we are with his passengers. Most manufacturers seem to put all their efforts into catering to the riders, forgetting that the most important person in that limo is the owner/driver!”
Jules Kaplan, founder and president of Marquis Coachcrafters in Canoga Park, CA, has some definite ideas about designing and manufacturing limousines which meet the needs of the professional driver.
“We’re constantly improving on what I call the “work car” for professional livery services. These drivers work terrible schedules, from early in the morning until late at night. They’re constantly on call, and no matter what the hour, their customers expect that the driver who calls for them should be neat, courteous, and proud of his profession and his vehicle. Yet how neat, courteous, and proud can a 6¢3² driver be when he’s constantly shoe-horning himself into a front compartment designed for jockeys the size of Willie Shoemaker,” says Kaplan.
Working with his designers, Kaplan has developed a front compartment which gives the driver maximum leg room, plus a smooth-working six-way power seat, adjustable to almost any height and body size. He’s also conducting ongoing surveys to determine “most-wanted” features as a guide in developing functional and comfortable work cars without sacrificing any of the luxury that passengers require.
“We’ve talked with a number of livery services which would like to have a vehicle designed to carry six people in the passenger area. Obviously you can’t do this if you’re using space for a console and a television, but how many people on the way to an airport or a business meeting actually watch TV? We’ve found that it’s the feeling of many livery services that a working limo doesn’t need a bar, astro-roof, television, or crystal decanters. What it needs is driver comfort and ease of handling, minimal maintenance, and the ability to transport twice as many people at much less cost,” states Kaplan.
“We know that for every thousand dollars spent on a limousine, the vehicle must be run eighty hours to recoup the money invested in it. That’s why here at Marquis we’re dedicated to the pursuit of excellence, giving the users of our cars the quality, reliability, and luxury they deserve for the money they are spending. Down-time is money lost, and we want our customers to make money, not lose it.”
Kaplan and his wife, Jewel, have been building limousines and specialty cars since 1977. Initially sales were concentrated in the Western States, but the growing reputation of their vehicles has expanded the market nationwide, as well as overseas. They believe that their responsiveness to the needs of the professional driver and their insistence on quality control have been the major reasons for their rapid expansion.
The Canoga Park production facility is housed in 23,000 square feet of space and includes an in-house woodshop, paint shop, upholstery department, and a complete metal shop including a 10-foot shear, power roller and brake. They also design and manufacture their own electrical system and fuse box which has resulted in an excellent record of trouble-free performance.
A stringent in-house quality control program allows Marquis to include a five-year, 100,000 mile warranty on the framework, and a twelve-month, 12,000 mile conversion warranty on all of their limousines.
To meet the growing nationwide demand for his limos, Kaplan is currently considering new and more modern sites for production and twenty-four hour repair facilities. He has also recently opened a North-field, IL sales and marketing office.
“Mitchell Kamon, formerly national fleet accounts manager for Volkswagen, has been named vice president of sales and is heading up our Northfield office. Mitchell has a wide range of experience in the industry, including nine years with Cadillac Motor Division. He’ll be responsible for our national sales and marketing activity,” states Kaplan.
Again in response to providing the maximum in driver/owner convenience, a national dealer network is being established. Kaplan feels that there is a solidly positive side to dealer distribution.
“The local automotive dealer is ideally suited for sales and servicing of limousines. The limousine purchaser is dealing with a person in his own community who has a vested interest in keeping him as a satisfied customer. When service is needed, there will be mechanics readily available who are fully trained in limousine upkeep and repairs to get the vehicle in working order as quickly as possible.”
Jewel Kaplan, Marquis vice president and corporate secretary who assists in all phases of day-to-day operation, and who has worked with her husband in developing the operation to its present success level, interjects another point. “We do want to emphasize that even with our concern with the driver and our aim of developing the best possible ‘work car,’ we never lose sight of the fact that a comfortable, luxurious interior for his passengers is important too. We use side consoles, which offer more space in the rear compartment, and those consoles are made with all the care given to any fine wood furniture. Our passenger control unit can be located according to customer specifications so that it will be both attractive and functional. And for those customers who want extra plush cars, we offer just about any exterior and interior amenities you could think of — from Persian rugs to built-in computers.”
Both Jules and Jewel Kaplan believe that the market for company limousines will also be increasing. “With the installation of a telephone and a small computer, a limousine becomes a rolling office, so business people don’t have to lose a minute of the working day,” says Jules. “I’ve watched this industry grow tremendously over the years,” he continues. “When I started my business, stretch-limousines were almost considered a novelty. Today we’re stretching not just Cadillacs and Lincolns, but just about any vehicle that comes off an assembly line, including Hondas. One of our newest innovations is a Cadillac Cimmaron stretch which takes advantage of the new shorter front-wheel-drive cars.”
The future? Kaplan plans to continue to produce vehicles for the working professional driver which will incorporate state-of the-art innovations. Now in the prototype stages are limousines with removable consoles and televisions, which the driver can remove or replace to meet the needs of his assignments, and a hand-held passenger control unit for use by the driver.
“I feel nothing but admiration for the professional limousine driver,” says Kaplan. “When I see the schedules they keep, watch them waiting at airports for planes coming in two hours late, listen to some of the hassles they get from their customers — and then realize that they can’t even get a comfortable ride in the vehicles they drive all those hours, I get really upset!
“Here’s our pledge to all those people. At Marquis we’re learning as much as we can as fast as we can about what you need and deserve in your vehicle. Thanks to you, we’ve grown from a successful local manufacturer to a successful national business. While some manufacturers will continue to build limousines catering only to the passenger’s comfort, we consider the driver to be “MIP” — the Most Important Person, not the Forgotten Man!”
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