Industry Research

Does The Term Limo Help Or Hinder Our Industry?

(Creative Commons image via The Blue Diamond Gallery by NICK YOUNGSTON)
(Creative Commons image via The Blue Diamond Gallery by NICK YOUNGSTON)

Uber created a brand and an all-new car service category in just a few short years, proving it is possible, and maybe even hip, to take something old like the word “limo” and separate the industry out by rebranding ourselves with a new name or reference.

I interviewed one of the partners of Jetsmarter.com the other day. He was quite fascinating and will be speaking at LCT-NLA Show East in Atlantic City, N.J., Nov. 5-7. I plan to play out the interview live for all of you.  

One thing he said, which I know all of us keep butting up against, is our industry “brand” remains unclear in today’s world of “for-hire transportation.” The word “limo” to the consumer is still tightly aligned with specialty vehicles and traditional stretches. A person simply would not think of calling a “limo” company for a shuttle bus, nor would many people think of a “limo” service when needing a ride to the airport.  

Conversely, if you use the words bus or charter in your name, I doubt you would get many new leads for sedan service or nights-on-the-town. For those of you who have moved away from the stretch business and diversified your fleets, it might be time to notch out a newer brand name that encompasses it all, broadens our business scope, and sends a “new” and “contemporary” message about who we are TODAY.

It’s interesting to note that taxi, shortened from taxicab, has gone unchanged for hundreds of years. Taxi, which came from the Latin word tax, to charge, and cabriolet, an old name for carriage, is well branded and still relevant today. Bus, derived from omnibus which in Latin means “for all,” is even older than taxi.

By contrast, Uber created a brand and an all-new car service category in just a few short years, proving it is possible and maybe even hip, to take something old like the word “limo” and separate the industry out by rebranding ourselves with a new name or reference.  

I Googled the term “for-hire vehicle” and this is what came up:

A vehicle for hire is a vehicle providing shared transport, which transports one or more passengers between locations of the passengers’ choice (or close to it). Didi Chuxing, Uber, and Grab are few of the biggest companies that focus on the “vehicle for hire” concept. The most common vehicle for hire around the world is the taxicab; other vehicles for hire include pulled rickshaws, cycle rickshaws, auto rickshaws, motorcycle taxis, limousines, party buses, horse- drawn carriages (including hackney carriages and caliches), and water taxis. Aircraft also can be chartered.

Shared taxis, paratransit, demand responsive transport, public light buses, and shuttle buses are hybrids — halfway between taxicabs and buses — and operate along somewhat fixed routes, with some flexibility in where passengers may be picked up or dropped off.

Shuttle services are also offered from many airports around the world: They take multiple independent passengers, like a bus, and usually run between two fixed areas (typically an airport and a downtown or hotel area), but will often pick up and drop off passengers anywhere reasonable within those areas, like a taxi.

I say it’s a worthwhile discussion to be had in person at LCT-NLA Show East. I am thinking maybe just the word “coach” will do? I ask you (since I am completely stumped on this) to think up just one word that would brand those operators running diversified fleets who want, and really need, to change their messaging. It’s a brainbuster to be sure.

Related Topics: Branding, ground transportation, industry trends, LCT Publisher, Sara Eastwood-Richardson, Uber

Comments ( 4 )
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  • Randy Allen

     | about 2 years ago

    I wholeheartedly agree this is a significant problem for our industry that doesn't have a good solution. Many limo companies have re-branded as "Worldwide Transportation" but transportation of what? Freight? Passengers? By what method? Boat? Tractor Trailer? Chauffeured Transportation may be the most unique and clear definition that would apply to our industry, but in a survey of our local market by a re-branding company we hired most of our clients did not use or associate our service with the term chauffeur. It is more of an "insider" term used in our industry.

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