The luxury vehicle could join the XT5 crossover as part of the future chauffeured fleet vehicle line-up.
ROCKVILLE, Md. — Consider operator Robert Alexander as among the first in the industry to definitively settle on a new fleet sedan and then follow up with an order.
The CEO of RMA Worldwide Chauffeured Services was set to order 15 of the BMW 535i Gran Turismo sedans this week as he, like all operators throughout the industry, must plan for the eventual day when their Lincoln Town Car Executive L and Cadillac DTS sedans must be retired.
The 535i GT made a strong impression at the 2012 International LCT Show with its $48,000 price tag (including rebate) and decades-long reputation as a reliable, German luxury brand that has worked its way deep into the preferences of American motorists.
“This is unlike any other car I’ve purchased,” said Alexander, who test drove one this month. “The excitement the car has created among chauffeurs and staff is amazing.”
Like many chauffeured operations, RMA has for years relied on the Lincoln Town Car Executive L for sedan service and Mercedes-Benz E-Class vehicles for its premium luxury sedan category. Alexander is heavily leaning toward making the BMW the de facto replacement for his Town Cars.
“You need to get the car that gives you the greatest return on investment,” said Alexander, also an NLA board director. “I think the BMW will [help us] twofold: Make us stand out, and get money back by being unique and different.”
In a prosperous cosmopolitan metro region such as Washington, D.C., with comparatively low unemployment, the BMW brand resonates with RMA’s upscale urban clientele, as do many other foreign vehicle brands, Alexander said.
The in-line 6-cylinder engine and 50,000 mile free maintenance plan will result in better fuel economy and slightly less overhead to offset the vehicle prices, which Alexander hints will actually come in at slightly below $48,000 per vehicle but more than the estimated $43,000 for a Lincoln MKT Town Car. RMA plans to keep the same client rates for its BMWs as for its Town Car sedans.
The [exact] cost to maintain and repair we’ll find out in two to two-and-a-half years,” he said.
One difference between the Town Car and the BMW 535i GT is the trunk space, which is designed differently in the BMW, Alexander said. “A lot of times it’s not so much the size, but how it’s configured. The Town Car is deep. In this car it’s more flat and not quite as big.” [The Lincoln MKT Town Car, a cross-over styled luxury vehicle, has 40% more trunk space than its Town Car predecessor].
Nevertheless, Alexander stresses that the vast majority of sedan runs throughout the industry are for one or two passengers, with three or more passengers often using an SUV instead of a sedan. The BMW 535i GT backseat and trunk can comfortably accommodate two tall clients and their standard business travel luggage sets, said Alexander, noting that the right rear seat passed the comfort test for a 6-foot, 5-inch operator trying it out at the Show.
Alexander also projects a favorable resale value for the BMW after three years of fleet service. “What will be easier to sell after three years? There are many more channels of buyers for the BMW versus the Lincoln. You’ll get the [price] difference back.”
Related LCT article: BMW Pursues Limo Luxury Market
— Martin Romjue, LCT editor
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