Operations

California Operators Offer Insights On Limo Vehicles

Posted on March 13, 2013
Kevin Illingworth (L), a board director of the GCLA and the NLA, hosts a panel Tuesday evening at the GCLA meeting in Los Angeles. Operators appearing on the panel (L to R): Matthew Strack, Perry Berin, and Chris Hundley.


Kevin Illingworth (L), a board director of the GCLA and the NLA, hosts a panel Tuesday evening at the GCLA meeting in Los Angeles. Operators appearing on the panel (L to R): Matthew Strack, Perry Berin, and Chris Hundley.

Kevin Illingworth (L), a board director of the GCLA and the NLA, hosts a panel Tuesday evening at the GCLA meeting in Los Angeles. Operators appearing on the panel (L to R): Matthew Strack, Perry Barin, and Chris Hundley.
Kevin Illingworth (L), a board director of the GCLA and the NLA, hosts a panel Tuesday evening at the GCLA meeting in Los Angeles. Operators appearing on the panel (L to R): Matthew Strack, Perry Barin, and Chris Hundley.

LOS ANGELES — As limousine operators nationwide size up and consider new chauffeured vehicles, three experienced California operators shared some representative industry views Tuesday about some of the new luxury vehicles on the market.

The operators — Matthew Strack of Strack Premier Transportation in Costa Mesa, Calif., Perry Barin, affiliate manager of Burbank-based Music Express, and Chris Hundley, owner of Limousine Connection in North Hollywood, Calif. — spoke at a general membership meeting of the Greater California Livery Association in Los Angeles.

  • Strack: His operation is experimenting with different vehicles, including a BMW 7-series hybrid model and a Royale Ford Fusion Hybrid L. He recently ordered an all-electric Tesla Model S sedan — an efficient but high-priced premium-level vehicle that could save operators a lot of money on energy and operating costs. Strack, who sees strong potential in green luxury vehicles, has not settled on a successor vehicle yet for his fleet. He plans to further weigh his options as he continues to run 2011 Lincoln Town Car Signature sedans.
  • Barin: Music Express now has 15 Lincoln MKT Town Cars in its company-owned fleet. Music has operations in Los Angeles, San Francisco, New York and Washington, D.C. It has received good feedback overall from clients on the MKT, with the only critical comments so far from a few senior citizens who say the higher vehicle is difficult to enter and exit. Music Express also likes the Lincoln MKZ Hybrid, which Barin reports is more luxurious than the competing Toyota Prius. The company also is looking at the Lincoln MKS sedan. Lincoln Limousine & Livery Vehicles just added the MKS to its official fleet vehicle line-up during the International LCT Show.
  • Hundley: Limousine Connection began replacing its retiring Town Cars with Mercedes-Benz R-Class cross-overs in recent years, and while the vehicle has performed well, it’s not the right client match, Hundley said. The MKT, MKS and Cadillac XTS sedan are all too small compared to the former Lincoln Town Car, but smaller vehicle sizes are a reality throughout the auto manufacturing industry. “The Town Car was a gift to this industry,” Hundley said. “You can be mad at Lincoln. . . but anything that Lincoln does for us is a gift. We are not that big. We are a small blip on their radar. Hundley was referring to Lincoln’s limousine and livery fleet program, which offers four vehicles to the chauffeured transportation sector. In replacing the Town Car sedan, Lincoln spent several years researching and developing the Lincoln MKT Town Car, engineering it specifically around the back seat client while boosting the vehicle’s overall mechanical durability. The automaker also offers the Navigator SUV, along with the MKZ Hybrid and MKS sedan.

The operators also offered some tips on related topics:

Saving on fuel?

  • Strack: No idling policy; use gas stations with lowest prices
  • Barin: Monitor fleets via GPS to limit idling, deadheading, and bad chauffeur driving habits.
  • Hundley: Fuel efficient vehicles just aren’t luxurious. It’s more important for operators to remain loyal to luxury brands and practices in the same way that Ritz-Carlton does not use lower thread-count bed sheets just to save money in a tough economy.

Technology/apps/social media

  • Strack: His company has an app for booking trips and for client to see vehicle locations. Strack Transportation posts to a blog three times per week, and is active on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and YouTube. High SEO rankings can bring business.
  • Hundley: Make sure you have back-up systems in place in case mobile apps unexpectedly go offline. Social media is a long term investment although it does not provide short-term ROI. Better to get a social media expert or employee who fully understands how to use it.

GCLA benefits

  • Strack: Association membership helps inform operators about and protect them against harmful litigation.
  • Barin: Networking and social events.
  • Hundley: Members with similar vehicles can meet and form connections to work together to farm-in/out regional business, depending on demand flow.

All agreed that limousine companies should hire and/or retain labor attorneys as a necessary protection against employee lawsuits. “We’re in a new world order,” Hundley said. “It’s not a question of if you get sued. It’s when you get sued. We’re in a more litigious society and unfortunately our industry is a moving target. A labor attorney is part of the deal.”

—    Martin Romjue, LCT editor

Related Topics: California operators, Chris Hundley, fuel efficiency, Greater California Livery Association, Matthew Strack, Music Express, new vehicles, social media marketing

Comments ( 1 )
  • Susan Lundquist

     | about 5 years ago

    Sorry I could not get away to So Cal for this meeting. Judging by what was included in this brief review of the evening, there was a wealth of information shared last night. Looking forward to the next GCLA meeting in Northern California, as the multiple changes in operations for our industry keep nudging us in different directions. Good to meet with affiliates and learn from those who are prospering in difficult times.

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