Chauffeured Vehicle Market Full Of Tough Choices For Operators

Martin Romjue
Posted on April 3, 2013

LAS VEGAS, Nev. — The International LCT Show this year felt more like old times: Less anxiety, more optimism.
The slowly improving economy helps. As of this writing, U.S. factory output exceeds that of other nations amid more business activity and global trade. Housing starts and home prices are up, consumers are more confident, and the stock market hit a record high March 5. The private sector appears to be pulling hard despite the drag from the public sector and high unemployment. The business world proves anew its ability to create and innovate.

That was apparent in the innovation that abounded with emerging new vehicle choices on the Show floor. I thought I had seen it all last year in vehicle variety. This year, I saw even more. We are experiencing a vehicle market in the limousine industry like none before: Splintered, diverse, quick, competitive and suspenseful.

We focus on vehicles often in LCT coverage because I know that’s what most operators care about. Our metrics, or “ratings,” on our website show that vehicle-related articles get the most page views. We watch every article in real time and know exactly which ones you are clicking into the most from minute to minute.

It’s impossible to do so many vehicles justice in the confined space of one magazine issue, but the fact the Show floor drew 14 types of Sprinter vans alone gives you an idea of the variety out there. Factor in the new Lincoln MKS sedan, just added to the leading livery vehicle maker’s line-up, debuts of multiple XTS-L extended sedan models, multiple Chrysler 300-L extended versions, a Toyota Avalon Hybrid, a new line of high-end buses from Grech Motors, the latest MKT stretch models from Executive Coach Builders. . . so many to keep up with and I hope we’ll get to them all.
Such a vehicle market leads me to one certainty, one prediction, and many questions.

Certainty: We are seeing a full-blown competitive horse race for chauffeured vehicle market share among Detroit’s Big 3: Ford/Lincoln, GM/Cadillac, and Chrysler. That has never happened in the limousine vehicle market.

Prediction: The increased quality, better amenities, and wider choices of chauffeured vehicles will lead to a “Golden Age” of purchasing in the industry market, as one size or style no longer fits all.

Now, I’ll throw out these questions, not just from curiosity, but as indicators for the corporate/business travel chauffeured vehicle market in the years ahead:

  • Will operators collectively demand extended QVM-versions of the MKS sedan of 4-6 inches, thereby spurring QVM coachbuilders to build them?
  • Would an extended MKS sedan match the appeal of the Lincoln Town Car Executive L?
  • How will MKS/MKT sales compare with those of the Cadillac XTS sedans?
  • How will sales of the MKT Town Car compare with those of the MKS livery sedan?
  • Can operators make similar profits on the “L” extended versions of the MKS, XTS and 300 sedans as they did on the Lincoln Town Car Executive L?
  • Will the new Toyota Avalon, especially the hybrid model, give the Chrysler 300 strong competition in the $30,000s livery vehicle price category?
  • Will most operators prefer the MKT crossover-styled stretch limousine (more room) or stick with traditional sedan stretch versions?
  • Will the BMW 535i GT and Mercedes-Benz E350 models create a unique service niche between standard and premium vehicles?
  • Will the successful chauffeured transportation company of the future have to offer models in all pricing categories: $30,000s (Chrysler 300/Toyota Avalon); $40,000s (Lincoln MKT Town Car, Lincoln MKS, Cadillac XTS, BMW 535i GT, 300-Ls); $40,000/$50,000s (Mercedes-Benz E350, XTS-Ls); $70,000s+ (Mercedes S-Class/BMW 7-series)?

I have many more questions, as I haven’t even tackled the SUVs, Sprinters, and limo buses. [Will the limo bus replace the stretch?] One of the things I like most about being editor of LCT Magazine is I get to ask lots of questions and circulate many answers — but not have to come up with my own since it’s not my place to do so. The many operators, dealers, and manufacturers will make the thousands of rational business choices and take individual actions over the next few years to collectively answer these questions. We look forward to seeing what you find out and what you do.

Martin Romjue
LCT editor
[email protected]

Related Topics: ILCT 2013, LCT editor, limo tradeshows, new vehicles, vehicle sales

Martin Romjue Editor
Comments ( 1 )
  • Glen

     | about 6 years ago

    Now if the big three would stop trying to convince operators that mid-size cars with no rear seat legroom and limited trunk space, and a crossover SUV are in any way viable replacements for the full-size cars that were the industry standard for decades.

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