Vehicles

Straight Talk On The MKT Hits LCT Summit

Posted on September 16, 2011
DaBryan's prototype Lincoln MKT stretch limousine has been outfitted  with a new interior that provides more realistic interior dimensions.

DaBryan's prototype Lincoln MKT stretch limousine has been outfitted with a new interior that provides more realistic interior dimensions.

DaBryan's prototype Lincoln MKT stretch limousine has been outfitted  with a new interior that provides more realistic interior dimensions.
DaBryan's prototype Lincoln MKT stretch limousine has been outfitted with a new interior that provides more realistic interior dimensions.

MIAMI BEACH, Fla. — The surprise guests at the 10th annual LCT Leadership Summit this week got plenty of attention by simply standing out front of the Ritz-Carlton South Beach Hotel dressed in black outfits.

The 2013 Lincoln MKT Town Car and a 120-inch Lincoln MKT Town Car stretch limousine were invited for another look among operators trying to decide what livery vehicles to buy next following the exit of the Lincoln Town Car Executive L sedan.

The sleek MKT stretch prototype, built by DaBryan Coach Builders, was fitted out with a new interior since it debuted Feb. 14 at the 2011 International LCT Show in Las Vegas. With a new inside bar narrowed by two inches, the prototype now bears more accurate interior dimensions, which also include two extra inches of headroom compared to the Lincoln Town Car. The MKT stretch now comfortably accommodates tall people in the eight seats of the limousine compartment and eases passenger movement along the bench seats. No more “stretch limo crawl.”

The 2013 Lincoln MKT Town Car was on display Tuesday, Sept. 13 at the LCT Leadership Summit in Miami Beach, Fla.
The 2013 Lincoln MKT Town Car was on display Tuesday, Sept. 13 at the LCT Leadership Summit in Miami Beach, Fla.
 

Dressing up to go
If the MKT stretch could be compared to an elegant evening gown, the Lincoln MKT Town Car would qualify as a business suit. It was the same prototype that debuted at the Show, and operators mingling in front of the Ritz-Carlton still were trying to figure out if the crossover suit fits right with a hatchback cargo look.

Both vehicles were brought to the Summit courtesy of Ford Fleet Limousine & Livery Vehicles and Acton Fleet Sales, two of the sponsors of the event. Ford starts production of the MKT Town Car on Feb. 28, 2012. The first finished vehicles are expected to arrive at dealerships by late March or early April. Operators can start ordering the first MKTs in October. Official information on pricing and drivetrain details are still pending.

Blunt speak
While operators circling and sampling the vehicles Tuesday voiced varying opinions about them, it was during a pricing and financial presentation Wednesday by Kenneth Schapiro, president of of Condor Capital Investment Management of Martinsville, N.J., that operators heard some of the most strident public comments to date about the MKT crossover successor to the Town Car sedan.

Schapiro, also part owner of AAA Worldwide Transportation in New Jersey, essentially told operators to eat it and like it because the MKT will be a solid, affordable luxury vehicle investment for the industry. Since Ford announced the MKT in September 2010, many operators have been skittish about the MKT’s crossover styling and smaller chassis platform compared to the Executive L.

Schapiro suggested that if operators collectively embrace the MKT as the new industry standard, it will boost its resale value as the vehicles eventually get traded down the used car food chain.

“Is the MKT ideal? No, but it will be priced right,” Schapiro told the audience of operators. “You all are the only ones who will have it because no one else has it. If everyone buys it, you will preserve the backend. If everyone buys different cars, no one preserves the backend because you just have consumer cars.
 
“I don’t think it’s ideal, but it’s something they are going to make [just] for you,” Schapiro said. “We’ve run the Ford Flex. It looks like a hearse, but the back seat is roomy, the seats recline, you can see out front, and there is a more European feel. I’m going to buy [the MKT]. I hope you do. You will screw up your business financially and image-wise if you don’t.

“It’s a good looking car on the inside,” said Schapiro of the MKT, which Ford carefully engineered based on input from operators and clients. He credited Ford’s CEO Alan Mullally with turning around the company into America’s leading quality automaker.
 

Inside scuttlebutt

  • One veteran New York operator noted later that the criticism of the MKT among some operators resembles the industry convulsions in 1997 when Lincoln transitioned from the boxy Town Car model to the more rounded body-style that lasted from 1998 to 2011. The operator, who plans to buy MKTs next year to replace some of his Town Cars, predicts the industry will need the MKT as a common standard so clients ride in a consistent vehicle while traveling to multiple locations.
  • Other operators, however, worried about the retractable rear luggage compartment cover: Would it allow enough room for multiple large pieces of luggage? Or, if it didn’t, would operators risk having uncovered luggage slide into the rear seat and hit passengers while the vehicle is in motion?
  • Some operators simply wondered about the look: Does it resemble a station wagon? Will clients view it as distinct and luxurious as a Town Car Executive L?
  • Some just restated some an obvious question: Can Lincoln also stretch the MKS sedan by a few inches, since the MKS gets heavy praise for its style and shape?

The LCT Summit Diva (center) is flanked on the left by operators Bill  Faeth and Doug Schwartz, and on the right by LCT editor Martin Romjue  and operators George Jacobs and Antoine Royster.
The LCT Summit Diva (center) is flanked on the left by operators Bill Faeth and Doug Schwartz, and on the right by LCT editor Martin Romjue and operators George Jacobs and Antoine Royster.
 

Summit success
In other Summit-related developments:

  • Overall, LCT received favorable feedback on the event, the first Summit to be held in Miami Beach since 2008. Highlights included a scenic Miami harbor cruise on a three-level  boat with sweeping views of the neon-accented  downtown Miami skyline, sumptuous food buffets, sunny, tropical weather, poolside pleasures, and an opening reception with a blues rock band.
  • Seminar topics delved into the seismic shifts changing the chauffeured transportation industry brought about by the Great Recession, pricing competition, social media, and customer service expectations. Operators also aired views, concerns, and solutions at a vibrant rotating roundtable think tank session. [Look for more in-depth seminar coverage in future editions of LCT Magazine and for online photo galleries from the Summit next week on LCTMag.com].
Operators Joel Amato, Evan Blanchette, and Jay and Adam Erlich hang out at the opening reception of the LCT Leadership Summit, Monday, Sept. 12.
Operators Joel Amato, Evan Blanchette, and Jay and Adam Erlich hang out at the opening reception of the LCT Leadership Summit, Monday, Sept. 12.

 

NLA Board tackles numbers and politics  
During a Monday quarterly meeting of the National Limousine Association board of directors, the officers and directors reported the following:

  • The number of NLA operator members in the 1-5 vehicle category have increased by 50% since 2001. All other categories were flat or down during the past decade. “That’s who we need to go after, focus on, and find out the issues for,” said NLA board director George Jacobs of Windy City Limousine in Chicago. “They are the biggest source of industry growth.” Board director Scott Solombrino of Boston-based Dav El said the NLA needs to work harder to accommodate smaller operators, many of whom are home-based. As a start, the NLA Show Committee is actively planning sessions oriented toward home-based operators for the 2012 International LCT Show in Las Vegas on Feb. 14-16.
  • As of 9/2/11, the NLA had 1,806 total members, including 303 new members and 1,503 renewed members (82.3% YTD renewal rate). This can be compared to the figures reported on Aug. 30, 2010: 1,805 total members including 270 new members and 1,535 renewals (78.2% renewal rate). The 1,806 (303 new plus 1,503 renewed) 2011 members comprise 82.1% of the approved 2011 budget of 2,200. YTD dues revenue as of 9/2/11 totaled $608,660, or 84% of the approved 2011 budget of $725,000. NLA President Diane Forgy said the board approved an aggressive budget for 2011 to restore pre-recession high membership levels, and will keep pushing for its goals through new member benefit incentives as more operators across the industry report improved financial conditions.
  • The NLA Political Action Committee has collected its highest amount to date, now at $32,426 drawn from a pool of 28 donors, most of them repeat. The board sees the 2012 election cycle as a crucial one to participate in, given the economic and industry regulatory issues at stake. Interested donors should contact board director Dawson Rutter or Tami Saccaccio of Boston-based Commonwealth Worldwide at (617) 787-5575 or board director Greg Pruitt of Kings Worldwide Transportation in Oklahoma City at (405) 733-5466.
  • Solombrino reported that NLA lobbyists and representatives are talking to officials at the federal Department of Labor about easing up on federal rules on overtime pay for gratuities. “If a business can prove that a gratuity went to an employee, then it might be exempted from paying overtime on the gratuity,” Solombrino said of initial hints from the DOL. “You would have to show that all gratuities are a pass-thru.”
  • Solombrino also lamented the stagnant political mess in Washington, D.C. resulting from the divisive debt deal debate this summer that is likely to stymie any further progress on industry-related legislative matters in Congress. “Everything in Congress has to happen between now and December since in 2012 [election year] not much will get done,” he said. “We will have to move forward in a new political environment that hopefully includes a new President and hopefully will be a President friendly to business. The current President has never been friendly to chauffeured car and never will be.”

— Martin Romjue, LCT editor

Related Topics: LCT Leadership Summit, Lincoln, Lincoln MKT, Lincoln MKT stretch limousine, Lincoln Town Car

Comments ( 2 )
  •  | about 7 years ago

    Correction: 2012 Cadillac DTS replacement.

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