Vehicle Review: It's time to dissect Lincoln's two biggest SUVs.
[LAST UPDATED 5:15 p.m. ET/2:15 p.m. PT, Feb. 27].
SECAUCUS, N.J. — Empire CLS Worldwide Chauffeured Services plans to buy 150 Cadillac XTS sedans, saying it wants to set the stage for a new industry fleet vehicle standard in the U.S. chauffeured transportation industry.
The company’s announcement Tuesday diverges from its decision last year to go with the Lincoln MKT Town Car as its primary corporate fleet vehicle. EmpireCLS, the No. 1 ranked chauffeured transportation company on the 2012 LCT Magazine 100 Largest Fleets List, runs more than 700 chauffeured vehicles. EmpireCLS CEO David Seelinger endorsed the Lincoln MKT Town Car as the primary fleet vehicle last year — a move that was touted on the cover of the June/July 2012 of issue of LCT Magazine, in which Seelinger gave the MKT a literal thumbs up.
EmpireCLS signed the deal this month with Cadillac Professional Vehicles to purchase the 150 new Cadillac XTS livery model sedans. The sedans will be added to EmpireCLS’s fleets in New York, New Jersey, Los Angeles and San Francisco. The Cadillac XTS was launched at the 2012 International LCT Show.
In an interview with LCT late Wednesday afternoon, Seelinger said changing his future corporate fleet vehicle from the MKT to the XTS was a tough, painful decision, given his loyalty to the Lincoln brand since 1985. EmpireCLS runs about 565 Lincoln Town Cars, including about 40 Lincoln MKT Town Cars. The MKTs will eventually "sunset" out of the EmpireCLS fleet once their leases expire.
"I did not have an issue with the MKT," Seelinger told LCT. "I liked the vehicle. After we got them in the fleet, we got pushback. They wanted a sedan."
Seelinger then tried out the Lincoln MKS sedan, which Lincoln Limousine & Livery Vehicles formally added to its livery fleet vehicle program in January and debuted at the International LCT Show earlier this month. On Feb. 20, he invited coporate travel manager customers of EmpireCLS and members of his senior management team to spend the day doing ride-n-drive side-by-side comparisons of the MKS and XTS sedans. "We had a group of customers come in and make decisions. They were very quick to pick the Cadillac over Lincoln."
The strongest pushback against Lincoln came from EmpireCLS hotel customers, who insisted on the Cadillac XTS sedans. "This was not an easy decision to make. But it came down to the user experience. That's what they wanted. . . I did justice to myself and my customers by making this move."
Seelinger attributed the choice of the XTS over the MKS and MKT to factors of quality, interior amenities, passenger comfort, and available technology integration, a combination that meets the high standards of EmpireCLS clients.
In the June/July 2012 issue of LCT Magazine, Seelinger said EmpireCLS would convert most of its Lincoln Town Car sedan fleet to the successor Lincoln MKT Town Car after he had evaluated all other options. And what in hindsight seems like a bizarre twist, that decision came six months after he stood before an industry convention in November 2011 and criticized the MKT Town Car and joked about it, saying, “The MKT is not going to work for us.”
The fleet reversal of EmpireCLS could lead to a shift in the luxury fleet vehicle market, with EmpireCLS saying it plans to influence smaller operators to adopt the XTS and create a new generation of luxury sedan uniformity in the chauffeured transportation industry.
“We invested a significant amount of time and resources to test all of our vehicle options over the last two years and ultimately the Cadillac XTS was the best option for our customers and our brand,” Seelinger said in the statement.
The XTS has been completely redesigned and is the upgraded successor to the Cadillac DTS sedan. Its signature CUE driver interface comes standard on the livery sedan, providing customized, in-vehicle connectivity and control. “We are working with GM to integrate our proprietary reservation and dispatch system directly into the CUE interface which will improve chauffeur communication, safety, and routing,” Seelinger said.
The limousine industry-tailored design features on the XTS include: 37.8 inches of headroom, 56.3 inches of shoulder room, and 54.3 inches of hip room. The XTS has 18 cubic feet of cargo space — large enough to carry five full-size pieces of luggage or four golf bags. The XTS has a FWD 3.6L V6 engine and 6-speed transmission.
EmpireCLS, which as an extensive celebrity, VIP and entertainment clientele in Los Angeles, will continue to operate its premium level fleet of Mercedes-Benz vehicles and other select elite models, Seelinger said. He said EmpireCLS will not buy any of the "L" extended sedan versions of the XTS.
As the largest chauffeured transportation service in the world, EmpireCLS provides service in 600-plus cities worldwide from New York and Los Angeles to London and Tokyo. EmpireCLS has provided global chauffeured services for more than 28 years, with clients ranging from Fortune 100 company executives to celebrities and dignitaries.
Chauffeured market shift?
EmpireCLS now becomes the second of four major chauffeured transportation networks to switch from the Lincoln Town Car sedan to the Cadillac XTS sedan as primary fleet vehicles.
Boston Coach has primarily used the Cadillac DTS sedan, the predecessor to the XTS sedan, as its primary luxury chauffeured sedan model since 2005. Dav El has operated a majority Cadillac fleet since 1999.
Sources: EmpireCLS; Martin Romjue, LCT editor
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