REALITY ROAD: A Fleet Year With the Lincoln MKT

Posted on November 2, 2011
Connecticut operator Charles Wisniewski gives the green light on the MKT. He has 10 retail versions in his chauffeured fleet.

Connecticut operator Charles Wisniewski gives the green light on the MKT. He has 10 retail versions in his chauffeured fleet.

Connecticut operator Charles Wisniewski gives the green light on the MKT. He has 10 retail versions in his chauffeured fleet.

Connecticut operator Charles Wisniewski gives the green light on the MKT. He has 10 retail versions in his chauffeured fleet.

NORWALK, Conn. — Charles Wisniewski can claim a rare milestone this week: Nov. 4 officially marks the first anniversary of running the Lincoln MKT in his 41-vehicle chauffeured fleet.

Wisniewski, owner of Teddy’s Transportation System, now has a mix of 10 new and used MKTs in service, with the first one just having reached 101,000 odometer miles. While Teddy’s still runs 15 Lincoln Town Car sedans, Wisniewski’s fleet strategy contrasts with that of many operators who are buying the last Executive L sedans in big batches so they can run them as long as possible while deciding what type of vehicle to buy next.

What’s especially noteworthy about Teddy’s MKTs is that they are retail versions — not the official 2013 Lincoln MKT Town Car designated by Ford Fleet Limousine and Livery Vehicles as the successor to the Lincoln Town Car Executive L. Lincoln starts taking orders for the MKT Town Car on Dec. 5 with the first ones rolling into chauffeured fleets in March or April 2012. The 2013 Lincoln MKT Town Car will differ from the retail version MKT in that it will have amenities, adjustments and modifications that make it more suitable for heavy-duty limousine/livery service.

Overall, the MKTs in Teddy’s fleet so far have provided more safety, technology, and comfort than the Lincoln Town Car, Wisniewski told LCT. He emphasized there is plenty of legroom.

Wisniewski adopted the MKT early because he wanted to embrace the direction of the chauffeured transportation industry and stay current. “We didn’t want to be on the other side of the curve,” said Wisniewski, a 2011 LCT Operator of the Year Award finalist. “We like to be out front. For years, there’s been a great dialogue with owners at association and NLA meetings, and we looked around at what others were doing, and thought this was the best choice. We didn’t want to buy the Lincoln Town Car while it was going out.”

So far, most clients who get the MKT like it, and the maintenance/reliability issues have been little to none, Wisniewski said. Two of Teddy’s 10 MKT have all-wheel-drive, with the rest front-wheel drive models.

“Once in a while, we get someone saying, ‘Why did you send me a station wagon, or why did you send us an SUV?’” Wisniewski said. “I wish it was a sedan. . . Aside from its exterior look of a station wagon, once you get past that, you have a graciously ample rear door, a second row that reclines, very decent legroom, and a higher profile seat which is very popular. You’re sitting up in traffic.”

A major improvement compared to the Town Car is the onboard technology suite, which Teddy’s promotes in its marketing. The MKT offers AC/DC power and climate controls to the rear salon passenger, as well as SYNC, iPod and MP3 interfaces. The vehicle also has added safety features, such as blind-spot alerts.

Nevertheless, Lincoln still needs to promote the image of the MKT crossover-utility-vehicle style as synonymous with luxury chauffeured transportation after so many years of the Town Car sedan defining a limousine, Wisniewski said.

“It’s not a sedan look, and not the thing people expect when rolling up to a red carpet,” he said. “Until Lincoln puts a lot more in Los Angeles for the red carpet crowd, [the MKT] doesn’t have the visual cues that customers expect on the outside.

“But in the world of carting business executives, they get past that quickly. They get in the car to work. They get in the car early in the morning when it’s dark and often get out when it’s dark. They plug in electronics and are delighted. They feel safer. They do like the ride, the inside, the comfort and the productivity.”

Comparing the MKT to the Town Car is pointless, given that the Town Car is no longer being produced, Wisniewski said. “There won’t be anything like that ‘big black leather couch’ in the Town Car again.” But he did mention that the retail MKT “surprisingly” seems slightly heavier than the Town Car sedan, and the gas mileage comparison appears to be a toss-up. The general mileage range on Teddy’s MKTs has been 18.81 to 20.08 miles per gallon.

Wisniewski also shared his MKT vehicle purchase price list with LCT: The average cost of his new MKTs was $43,363 per vehicle; the average cost of his used ones was $38,831 per vehicle. Teddy’s Transportation fleet vehicles are colored silver as opposed to the standard black.  

“There are no other choices out there,” he said. “No [clients] want to pay the hourly cost for a BMW or Mercedes. And going downstream is not the answer. Chevrolet Tahoes and Toyotas are not the brand position I want. If it’s not a prestige nameplate, why be in the limousine business?”

— Martin Romjue, LCT editor

Related Topics: Lincoln, Lincoln MKT, Lincoln Town Car, New England operators, vehicle technology

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