U.S. automakers are shifting emphasis from sedans to SUVs and crossover models as more customers prefer larger vehicles.
EAST HANOVER, N.J. — The first line of Lincoln MKS livery sedans are landing on dealership lots and moving into limousine fleets this week, as the latest entrant on the active chauffeured vehicle market offers operators another solid sedan option.
The 2013 Lincoln MKS is being sold in three successive livery-related packages — 100A, 101A, and 102A — with each package available in either FWD or AWD models. The prices range from $37,000 to $44,000, depending on the package, drivetrain, options and negotiated deals between operators and sellers. Lincoln Limousine & Livery Vehicles displayed the MKS livery sedan for the first time at the International LCT Show last month after announcing the vehicle in January.
At this price range, Lincoln has positioned the MKS livery sedan to be highly competitive with those chauffeured vehicles being offered in the low $30,000s as well as those in the low- to mid-$40,000s, injecting another viable, value-driven option into the most diverse and vibrant chauffeured vehicle market in industry history.
At Complete Fleet and Limousine Sales in Union, N.J., a division of Maplecrest Ford Lincoln, President Barry Trabb delivered his first MKS livery sedan to his first customer, Howard Gogel of My Limousine in East Hanover, N.J., on Tuesday. Gogel is getting 10 MKS sedans this week, another 10 within six weeks, and eventually plans to have 50 in his fleet by next year.
“The price point is unbelievable,” said Trabb, who quoted $38,995 for a 100A-package, AWD MKS livery sedan. “The car is well appointed. It has more equipment than the previous Town Car L, but not as much as the Lincoln MKT Town Car.”
In working with limousine operators, Trabb has observed that the MKS and the crossover-styled MKT are moving in complementary directions, as operators are finding client preferences for both models.
“The MKT is still strong and people are still ordering it,” Trabb said. “A lot of companies don’t have issues with the MKT and the practicalities of it. It’s not so much that this car [MKS] is taking over, it’s just another option that many loyal Lincoln operators are looking for.”
Gogel, who has run a limousine company since 1983, said he plans to keep his 20 MKT Town Cars and “run them into the ground” as he phases in his MKS sedans.
“Because most of our clients are expensing trips back to corporations, they will accept an MKS, an MKT, a 300 or an Avalon,” he said. “As long as the car is on time, clean, and the experience is professional. 90% of our clients are corporate. In other markets, where it’s more 50/50 or 60/40, and people are paying for rides themselves, you will see more personal preferences.”
With the MKS priced under $40,000, it costs less than the previous Lincoln Town Car Executive L, Gogel said. And although the MKS is smaller than the Town Car L, it has AWD, better fuel efficiency and more technology. Gogel finds that legroom is not a big issue when the right front seat moved all the way forward, since about 80% of his sedan clients are single riders.
At GEM Limousine Worldwide in Woodbridge, N.J., CEO Barbara Chirico is getting her first five Lincoln MKS sedans next week to add to her 100-plus vehicle fleet. She will get another five MKS sedans soon thereafter.
Chirico told LCT she tried out the MKT Town Car, the Chrysler 300 and the Mercedes-Benz R-Class in her fleet before deciding on the MKS livery sedan as the primary replacement for GEM’s Lincoln Town Car Executive L sedans. Each of the other models had pluses and minuses, but the MKS ended up offering the right balance for GEM’s client needs.
“When Lincoln came out with the MKS, we looked at it and saw it is all-wheel drive, the trunk is bigger, and with Lincoln’s promotion, we thought, ‘Let’s try those,’” Chirico said.
Longtime Lincoln dealer David Bastian, of Towne Livery in Orchard Park, N.Y., said it makes sense for operators to run both MKTs and MKS sedans. The MKS can provide a classic luxury sedan experience, but the MKT Town Car still has more legroom, headroom and luggage space than the MKS.
“Overall the MKS is a very good option for livery operators if they don’t need a crossover,” Bastian said. “If they buy both, the vehicles will complement each other in the fleet. With MKT and MKS looking very similar, it won’t hurt operators to have both.”
Bastian sold his first MKS livery sedan last week to Blackline Limousines of Milwaukee, Wisc., and has two more on their way to another customer this week.
“What it all comes down to is if a livery operator is looking for a bigger vehicle, the obvious choice is a MKT,” Bastian said. “If you want a sedan, because some people are very firm on a sedan, then the MKS should be considered because it’s comparable to other products in dimension and size. Now they can add a Lincoln sedan instead of something else.”
Bastian underscored a point being made by Lincoln that it remains firmly committed to the MKT Town Car as the primary livery fleet vehicle. The Lincoln MKT Town Car evolved from extensive marketing, mechanical and engineering R&D that involved input from limousine operator focus groups nationwide.
Another leading Lincoln livery dealer, Bill Cunningham, general manager of Acton Fleet Sales, is awaiting his first shipment of MKS livery sedans and said he has fielded multiple client inquiries and orders since the debut at the ILCT Show.
— Martin Romjue, LCT editor
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