Here are some sights and scenes from one wicked cool tradeshow.
Executive Coach Builders can credit their position within the highly competitive limousine industry to their strategy of “specialization.” Specifically developing their product line for the high-end limousine market gives Executive Coach Builders the opportunity to concentrate their efforts exclusively on producing a luxurious high-quality limousine line.
“We cater to limousine buyers who demand quality, and who are willing to pay for it,” explained Rahn Farris, owner of the Springfield, MO- based firm. “They won’t settle for second-best and neither will we.”
Currently producing over 400 luxury stretch limousines a year, Executive Coach Builders is the largest limousine manufacturer for this product line and is ranked among the top coach builders in the industry. Currently, the company’s two primary limousine styles are the Lincoln Town Car Executive President and the Cadillac Fleetwood Executive. Both are available in 54-inch and 62-inch stretch models.
Executive Coach Builders’ standard limousine is loaded with what many competitors still call “options.” Examples of standard equipment on the firm’s limousines include: a moon roof, a 60-watt Blaupunkt AM/FM cassette stereo system with four speakers, electrically-powered privacy dividers, a separately controlled passenger compartment air-conditioning and heating system, an intercom system, and other amenities.
In addition, the company will personally design a limousine’s interior to suit the personality and needs of an individual consumer. Amenities which the firm has added to their standard package in the past include: cellular car telephone systems, video-cassette players, microwave ovens, coffee makers, personal business computers, and acid-etched monograms in the limousine’s window glass.
Farris first became interested in automobiles as a youth, when “summer camp” was working for his uncle, a Dodge dealer in Pennsylvania. “As a kid, I knew and loved all automobiles,” Farris recalled, “and I could tell, you how many teeth there were on the grill of just about any car.” Owning a company that manufactures the most luxurious of all automobiles, the limousine, is Farris’ boyhood dream come true.
Farris’ first involvement with limousines was as a consumer. “I’ve always loved limousines and have used them as a source of transportation for many years,” he explained. “This gives me a different perspective than most coach builders, whose only viewpoint may be as a profit-margin manufacturer.”
In May 1981, Farris’ interest in the limousine industry went from pleasure to business when he began investigating the possible development of a livery service in Philadelphia. While comparison shopping for limousines, Farris decided to purchase one built by Executive Coach Builders, “Because of their limousine’s distinctive quality,” he recalled.
After placing his order, Farris soon found himself unable to get the limousine firm off of his mind. Contacting the coach builder’s current owner the next day to suggest a Philadelphia-based joint venture, Farris was surprised to learn that the owner was interested in selling the entire corporation. Six weeks later, Executive Coach Builders was under new ownership, with Farris behind the wheel.
Although he wanted to maintain the company’s reputation for fine quality - a reputation which had attracted him in the first place - Farris was also eager to boost the production rate past 120 limousines a year. By 1984, the firm was manufacturing approximately 350 limousines a year. In 1985, Executive Coach Builders logged a 12 percent growth in production rates, and manufactured just under 400 limousines. Responding to a leveling off within the industry, the firm is raising its production rates by 5 percent in 1986 and anticipates a higher percentile production increase for 1987.
Executive Coach Builders’ position in the industry developed due to the consistent quality of their limousine designs. Evolving since the firm’s inception in 1976, the basic limousine design incorporates the idea of ease-of-access for after- market servicing. All Executive Coach Builders limousines feature ‘snap-on wiring.’ The windows, privacy partitions, interior compartment components, and the majority of the primary body parts can be easily dismantled and serviced.
“Our limousines are designed to make it easy on the consumer. We realize that ‘downtime’ is of primary concern to the limousine buyer and, by design, Executive Coach Builders’ limousines minimize the ‘downtime’ required for servicing the vehicle,” Farris explained.
The firm’s limousines are made exclusively of top-of-the-line components, including Lincoln fabrics, rear-vanity mirrors and other Lincoln and Cadillac parts whenever possible. Color Sony TV systems and Blaupunkt stereo systems are also exclusively used Vinyl upholstery is automatically replaced by leather for a finer, more luxurious look and feel. Only solid-woods are used in crafting the interiors, including zebra, walnut and oak for the interior compartments and consoles. “Using only top-quality products enhances Executive Coach Builders limousines’ reliability,” Farris commented, ‘and therefore helps safeguard the consumer’s investment.
Craftsmanship is the key factor in setting Executive Coach Builders’ limousines apart from the competition.’ The quality-labor-factor in Springfield could not be duplicated on the East or West Coast,’ Farris observed. “In Springfield, there are fewer exterior influences on our craftsmen than there would be in the large urban centers on both coasts. Building our limousines is a pivotal part of their lives. They take their time, and have great pride in what they do. They won’t build a ‘cheap’ limousine,” Farris reflected.
More than 20 percent of Executive’s employees have been with the firm since its inception more than a decade ago. Farris is equally devoted to his craftsmen. The company sponsors employee baseball, soft ball, basketball, and bowling teams. Farris is also flexible regarding the scheduling of work-hours for individuals who compete in other sports such as rodeo riding and “bronco-busting,” and encourages other employees to attend competitions in support of their coworkers.
The company has a $40,000 health-club facility featuring Universal equipment, which is available to the employees and their families. Farris built the club, nicknamed “Executive Health Club” by the employees, so that they could maintain their physical fitness while on the job site. “When you get into shape and stay in shape, you work better and have less sick time,” said physical fitness buff Farris. “This is a great corporate ‘perk’ for our employees and it gives me a chance to mingle and get to know them and their families.”
“Executive Coach Builders’ team of employees all pursue the same objective: crafting the finest quality luxury limousines possible,” Farris reflected. “Everyone is equally committed to that objective, therefore the employees all deserve the best possible treatment the company can afford.”
Employee training is an integral factor in Executive Coach Builders’ rise to success. Whenever possible, the firm trains entering craftsmen on how to build a limousine “the Executive Coach Builders way.” Farris explained, “We strive to do a minimal amount of cross-training; we like our craftsmen to feel an expertise in whatever they do. Many firms have employees who know very little about a lot. Here, we prefer our craftsmen to know a lot about a little.” This philosophy makes employees more fully aware of the company’s dedication to production quality and increases the employees’ interest in customer satisfaction.
“It is the limousine manufacturer’s obligation to the consumer to live up to their product,” Farris asserted. “Executive Coach Builders has consistently strived to create the best product possible, and then to include a complete after-market service warranty in the package offered to the consumer,” he added.
Customer satisfaction, and therefore their repeat business, is a vital key to success within today’s highly-competitive limousine industry. Executive Coach Builders’ dedication to quality has apparently been noticed by many limousine consumers, for between sixty and seventy percent of the firm’s business is from repeat customers. More than sixty percent of the limousines Executive Coach Builders sells are purchased by livery operators, over thirty-five percent are sold to large corporations and private individuals, and five percent are purchased by members of the sports, music and entertainment industries.
Executive Coach Builders’ limousines feature a standard 24,000 mile warranty. Yet, in the past, the firm has serviced vehicles that have exceeded their warranties. “We’ve been known to repaint limousines over two year old and to fix parts which have gone faulty after the warranty period,” Farris commented. “If any aspect of an Executive Coach Builders limousine proves faulty and the consumer has a fair and legitimate claim, we will definitely take care of the problem.” He continued, “Mere miles or months shouldn’t deprive one of our customers from getting the product they deserve for their investment.”
Under Farris’ direction, the firm has established a unique manufacturer-direct-to-the-consumer sales and service program. Farris detailed the program, “Selling our limousines directly to the consumer, instead of through a dealer network system, enables us to better understand our customers’ needs, and Executive Coach Builders’ limousines then are not just another product offered by the dealer.”
This sales program means that Executive Coach Builders’ salespeople are full-time, experienced factory representatives exclusively selling the firm’s products. The manufacturer’s program guarantees that the firm’s salespeople must report directly to the company, thereby increasing the control Executive Coach Builders has over their products. Farris related, “If a customer has a problem with one of our products, Executive Coach Builders (in the person of the salesman) can directly handle the situation, rather than a dealer becoming a middleman and creating another layer of red tape for the customer to tackle.”
Executive Coachbuilders has experienced tremendous growth since Farris purchased the firm. The company has grown from exclusively manufacturing limousines in 1981 to, five years later, being a full-service executive transportation company. Executive Coachbuilders now encompasses a number of subsidiaries including Executive Coach Builders East, a limousine and automobile showroom in Camden, NJ; Auden Reed Financial Services, a full-scale vehicle and equipment leasing firm; Executive Motoring Accessories, a high-line automotive product boutique; an exotic car retail and wholesale division; Harbor Communications Inc., a mobile paging and cellular telephone technology firm; and R.J.F. Enterprises, a real estate and venture capital subsidiary. This fast-paced growth will continue. Farris is currently considering further joint venture developments within the field of executive transportation.
“Our limousines, with the base prices in the mid-$50,000 range, are often referred to as being too expensive,” Farris reflected, “but is quality ever expensive? In the overall picture, our limousines are not more expensive when the return on investment is involved. When you buy cheap, you get cheap.” He added, “Executive Coach Builders’ limousines are not expensive when ‘downtime’ is considered. If the customer is willing to pay for quality, the price is long-forgotten once the quality of usage value is remembered.”
Farris concluded, “Executive Coach Builders will go the distance for our customers. We really do care about meeting their needs.”
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