Vehicle Review: While the outside is breathtaking, the inside is sumptuous and serene.
LAS VEGAS, Nev. — The luxury chauffeured vehicle horse race hits the track hard next week as Cadillac and Chrysler introduce longer versions of their sedan models while Lincoln adds the MKS sedan to its line-up.
And limousine operators have sent a resounding message to manufacturers: It’s all about the legroom.
The extended versions of the Cadillac XTS and Chrysler 300 sedans will be ready for operators to view and to order next week at the 2013 International LCT Show at the MGM Grand Hotel in Las Vegas, Feb. 5-7.
A production-ready Cadillac XTS-L sedan, expanded seven inches, will be on display at the exhibit area of Acton Fleet Sales and SoCal Penske on the Show floor, along with a six-inch extended version of the Chrysler 300 sedan. The XTS-L is being manufactured by Specialty Vehicle Group of Amelia, Ohio, which makes vehicles under the Federal Coach and Eagle Coach brands. The Chrysler 300-L will be manufactured by Livernois Vehicle Development of Inkster, Mich. The 300 model at the Show is a pre-production prototype and will be engineered to meet or exceed all federal safety standards and certifications. The XTS-L is certified by Cadillac Master Coachbuilders. Both vehicles will contain original OEM rear doors.
Final pricing is still being determined, but the manufacturers and their exclusive dealer, Acton Fleet Sales/SoCal Penske, are aiming for prices about $10,000 more than the standard livery versions of the XTS and 300, said Bill Cunningham, general sales manager of Acton.
Both vehicles will be officially introduced at the Acton/Penske booth to much fanfare at a national press conference on the International LCT Show floor of the MGM Grand Marquee Ballroom at 3:45 p.m. PT on Tuesday, Feb. 5. Cunningham, Phillip Hartz, Co-CEO of SoCal Penske Professional Vehicles, Acton/Penske sales managers Greg Maddock and Bob Moody, and Acton dealership franchise owner Coleman Hoyt will join Edward J. Peper, GM U.S. vice president of fleet and commercial sales and Chrysler executive Brad Davis for the unveilings, now scheduled about 90 minutes apart with the XTS-L debuting first. The launch will feature slide show presentations, information on vehicle specs, and a celebratory reception at the exhibit for all ILCT Show attendees.
The XTS and 300 extended versions are in response to an intense and consistent desire among limousine operators for sedans and livery vehicles with legroom similar to that of the retired Lincoln Town Car Executive L, which was a six-inch extended version of the standard Lincoln Town Car. [Lincoln engineered the interior of the MKT Town Car to maximize rear seat legroom without extending the chassis].
“Everyone is looking for a sedan that gives them back that interior room,” Cunningham told LCT. “Everyone is saying we need something big, and we need something with legroom.”
The extended models along with the many choices also underscore a vehicle market limited by stricter federal vehicle standards, with manufacturers no longer able to produce sedans as wide as the former Town Car and having to make do with mid-size being the new full-size, Hartz said. The only OEM-ready long wheelbase luxury vehicles now available to limousine operators are made by Mercedes-Benz, BMW and Lexus, and because of their costs, are suited mostly to the high-end chauffeured market.
“Since the demise of the Town Car, the industry has been searching for alternatives,” Hartz said. “Operators continue to ask for longer extended versions of the new style sedans out there. They are smaller and narrower than the Town Car, and operators feel lost because they don’t have one particular product. The Town Car L was reliable. Change is tough on everybody.”
The XTS-L made by SVG is ready for immediate orders while the 300-L needs further testing and development before being road ready and available for sale by later summer. The XTS-Ls could be in limousine fleets as early as March, Cunningham said. Acton and Penske have fielded an avalanche of calls and inquiries from operators interested in either or both extended models.
Additionally, Lehmann-Peterson will be launching its extended version of the XTS-L at the Show next week, while Lincoln Limousine & Livery Vehicles just announced the addition of the Lincoln MKS to its official livery fleet selections. The MKS will be on display with the MKT Town Car at the Lincoln Limousine & Livery Vehicles exhibit area.
The bottom line for operators attending the 2013 International LCT Show is that not only is the chauffeured vehicle market offering more choices than ever before, the Detroit Big 3 automakers are intensely competing in a widening luxury vehicle market that has evolved since the retirements of the Town Car and Cadillac DTS sedans in 2011.
Cunningham estimates that the vast majority of operators nationwide have not yet decided on a new fleet vehicle mix nor made many bulk fleet purchases, as they run their Town Cars longer and evaluate all the options on the market. Some have bought a few sample vehicles to try them out. 2013 and 2014 are likely to see an explosion in fleet orders from chauffeured transportation operators of all fleet sizes as the Town Cars and DTS sedans finally wear out or are sold to the used vehicle market.
“Sales demand has not broken loose yet,” Cunningham said. “We have not touched the tip of the iceberg. I’m getting many calls from people with Town Cars with 200,000, 300,000, 400,000 miles on them.” He also predicted a spike in stretch limousine sales: “We’re going to see the resurgence of the limousine industry. People are coming back because they need to have a new limo.”
With so many choices and options, the Acton/Penske sales team will use a no-pressure-no-hassle advisory approach to its presentations and interactions with limo operators. It is more important for operators to take their time and try out the various vehicles, Cunningham said, so they can accurately determine which are best for their operations and for their customers while preserving price integrity and profit margins.
“We’ve got to go slow, listen to them, and try to put them in the car(s) that suit their needs,” Cunningham said. “We want to try to earn the customer’s business for life.”
Acton/Penske, which announced a partnership last September creating a national livery vehicle sales network, can provide a one-stop shopping, shipping and service experience for operators nationwide, regardless of whether they choose Lincolns, Cadillacs or Chryslers, Hartz said. Many operators and chauffeurs are seeing how customers like the new models. “There is definitely a need to help the industry sort through these issues of what the customers are really asking for.”
Below is a list of the vehicles and available pricing (applicable rebates included) from Acton/Penske for the many models being sold in the post-Town Car livery vehicle market:
[While informed industry sources have speculated about the possibility of an extended Lincoln MKS-L version, there are no definitive plans at this time].
-- Martin Romjue, LCT editor
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