Vehicles

Big Changes Coming To Industry Fleet Vehicle Choices

Martin Romjue
Posted on March 12, 2019

Mark Dec. 4, 2018 as the official date when industry operators saw the first hint of sweeping changes coming to luxury fleet vehicle line-ups. Phil Hartz of Acton Socal Penske Professional Vehicles brought a Cadillac XT5 crossover model to the Greater California Livery Association's holiday event in downtown Los Angeles that evening to see what operators thought of it. (LCT photo)

Mark Dec. 4, 2018 as the official date when industry operators saw the first hint of sweeping changes coming to luxury fleet vehicle line-ups. Phil Hartz of Acton Socal Penske Professional Vehicles brought a Cadillac XT5 crossover model to the Greater California Livery Association's holiday event in downtown Los Angeles that evening to see what operators thought of it. (LCT photo)

LOS ANGELES --- The two major automakers supplying luxury fleet vehicles to the industry will be phasing out sedans in favor of crossover and sport utility vehicles in the next few years.

Dealers representing Ford/Lincoln and Cadillac previewed the coming fleet offerings March 6 during a presentation at the Greater California Livery Association's winter membership meeting in Los Angeles.

The Lincoln MKT Town Car and Lincoln Continental along with the Cadillac XTS will end production within the next two years, and the CT6 sedan will likely yield to another model, attendees were told at the dinner meeting.

While the OEMs are still working on announcements on detailed plans and specific replacement models, the future fleet trend for luxury ground transportation will definitely reflect the realities of the U.S. auto retail marketplace: Consumers are preferring larger SUVs, mid-size SUVs, and CUVs instead of sedans, which are increasingly limited in size because of stricter federal fuel mileage requirements. Automakers also make bigger profits on SUVs and CUVs.

The livery fleet vehicle market is changing and the luxury transportation industry has to change with it, Steve Wood, commercial vehicle sales manager at South Bay Ford, told the GCLA meeting in Los Angeles, Wednesday, March 6, 2019 (LCT photo)

The livery fleet vehicle market is changing and the luxury transportation industry has to change with it, Steve Wood, commercial vehicle sales manager at South Bay Ford, told the GCLA meeting in Los Angeles, Wednesday, March 6, 2019 (LCT photo)

"The business is changing and going away from sedans," said Steve Wood, commercial vehicle sales manager for South Bay Ford near Los Angeles. "There are not many answers."

The Lincoln MKT Town Car, formally unveiled to the industry in early 2011 as the successor to the Lincoln Town Car Executive L, will cease production later this year, and the Continental in late 2020, Wood said. He alluded to the mid-size SUV modeled Lincoln Aviator as a possible replacement, while sources have mentioned to LCT the Lincoln Nautilus as a candidate too. Ford/Lincoln may be announcing a limo/livery program fleet vehicle this fall.

In citing the decline of sedans, Wood reported sales of the Lincoln Navigator and Ford Expedition are up about 150% year over year, signaling the popularity of large, roomy luxury SUVs.

Acton SoCal Penske's Hartz previews 2019-2021 livery vehicle model production plans at the GCLA meeting in Los Angeles, Wednesday, March 6, 2019 (LCT photo)

Acton SoCal Penske's Hartz previews 2019-2021 livery vehicle model production plans at the GCLA meeting in Los Angeles, Wednesday, March 6, 2019 (LCT photo)

Following up Wood, Phil Hartz, the co-CEO of Acton/SoCal Penske Professional Vehicles, a nationwide dealer network of all major livery fleet brands, outlined the Ford and Cadillac vehicle line-ups for the next three years:

Cadillac/Chevrolet

2019: Cadillac XTS sedan, the XT5 CUV, the CT6 sedan, the Chevrolet Suburban, and Cadillac Escalade

2020: Cadillac XT5 and Cadillac XT6 mid-size SUV, Escalade, and Suburban (The CT6 will be available into 2020).

2021: XT5, XT6, a new model CT5 sedan, and newly redesigned Escalade and Suburban.

Recapping Wood's line-up, Hartz listed the following for Lincoln:

2019: Lincoln Continental, Lincoln Navigator, Lincoln MKT Town Car

2020: Continental, Navigator, a mid-size SUV (CUV)

2021: Lincoln Navigator, a mid-size SUV (CUV)

The Ford Expedition MAX, which debuted to the industry in 2017, will remain part of the limo/livery fleet vehicle group.

The Escalade and Suburban will get a new body-style in 2020 with production beginning in September of that year, Hartz said. Both models will be available in quantity by the Spring of 2021.

"2019 will be the last full year for large sedans that will (then) be replaced by cross-overs," Hartz said. Production schedules will enable operators to still order and buy sedans into 2020, allowing luxury fleet providers to stock up on sedans.

Hartz cited the EPA's average fuel mileage requirement for sedans rising to 30 mpg in the early 2020s from 27.5 mpg now. "You can't build a car like the Lincoln Continental  and the Cadillac XTS," Hartz said. "You can't beat physics."

The limousine industry last saw such a major fleet wave in 2011 and 2012 when Ford/Lincoln retired the Lincoln Town Car Executive L and Cadillac ended the DTS sedan line. Both luxury sedans were built on larger platforms OEMs eliminated due to pending increases in federal average vehicle fuel mileage standards.

While Ford/Lincoln and General Motors are dialing back on sedans, operators who need longer wheelbase luxury models can still get them from foreign automakers. The Volvo S90, Mercedes-Benz S-Class, and BMW 750i will continue to be sold to the luxury ground transportation industry in the next few years.

Jonathan Fishkin, key account manager for BMW of North America, briefly gave an overview of 2020 MY plans for the 750i and displayed one in front of the meeting venue, The Proud Bird. BMW, along with the other major OEMs, will be exhibiting at the International LCT Show in Las Vegas, March 24-27, being held at Mandalay Bay.

One issue that will confront operators is how to adjust their rates relative to the new fleet vehicle costs and sizes, as SUVs and foreign-brand luxury sedans generally cost more than the current selection of livery sedans.

"A lot of people are asking how much to charge for a mini-SUV relative to a larger SUV," Wood told the GCLA attendees. "The market is changing and we have to change with it."

LCT related photo gallery: GCLA Winter Meeting Who's Who

Related Topics: Acton SoCal Penske Professional Vehicles, Cadillac, Cadillac CT6, Cadillac Escalade, Cadillac XTS, California operators, Chevrolet Suburban, Crossovers, dealerships, Fleet Vehicles, Ford Expedition, Greater California Livery Association, industry trends, Lincoln MKT, Lincoln Navigator, Lincoln-Continental, manufacturing, OEMs, Phillip Hartz, South Bay Ford, Steve Wood, SUVs, vehicle production

Martin Romjue Editor
Comments ( 7 )
  • Frank Cicero

     | about 4 months ago

    I definitely agree with Paul and don't know why the town car the most beloved sedan is a dead horse.

  • See all comments
More Stories