Lincoln left a rather large hole in the livery market last year when it finally abandoned the long-lived Town Car. And while the Ford Motor Co. luxury brand has been trying to woo limo customers back with its MKT crossover, demand has so far been tepid, at best.
That’s left a “limo gap” that cross-town rival Cadillac believes it can fill with its new-for-2013 XTS sedan. And Caddy’s new flagship has gotten a boost from Carey International, the world’s largest limousine company, which has put in an initial order for 150 of the sedans equipped with a new Livery Package that includes such niceties as rear heated seats, window shades and a charger for smartphones and tablet computers.
“We are bringing a new formula to the livery customer. Every experience in a Cadillac, front seat or rear seat, meets a higher standard for luxury, performance and technology,” says Don Butler, U.S. marketing director for the General Motors brand.
The Lincoln Town Car – almost always painted black – was the mainstay of the livery industry for decades. Companies like Carey loved the simplicity of the vehicle’s time-tested rear-wheel-drive design, it’s near bullet-proof reliability and the overall cost of ownership. While it wasn’t the most stylish or technically sophisticated, customers appreciated the Town Car’s roomy and plush back seat.
But Lincoln ultimately decided to abandon the Town Car – while sibling Ford Division walked away from the Crown Victoria, a popular car with American police departments, that shared the same platform – rather than investing to modernize it. Ford had hoped products like the Taurus sedan and Explorer SUV would click with cops, while limo companies would jump for the large Lincoln MKT. It hasn’t worked out as planned.
The MKT, in particular, is gaining little traction, opening up opportunities for a number of competitors including Mercedes-Benz at the high end. Cadillac is betting the XTS can more directly serve as a substitute for the Town Car.
The new sedan is one of two models Caddy has introduced for 2013. Unlike the rest of its sedan line-up, the XTS is a front-drive model, which may give some livery firms pause. It’s also available in all-wheel-drive, which has its appeal in snowy climes where companies like Carey need to get their clients to a destination no matter what the weather.
The XTS is the most high-tech model Cadillac has ever developed, with the slick Cue infotainment system loosely modeled on the functionality of the Apple iPhone. But the W20 Livery Package could be the real selling point. It is designed to make the back experience even more comfortable and luxurious, Cadillac’s Butler explains, calling it “a new approach to luxury, centered on advanced technology and design.”
Caddy has won an important endorsement from Carey International, which placed an order for 150 more XTS sedans after an initial field test of 24.
“Our customers wanted approachable luxury and enabling technology,” says Carey President and CEO Gary Kessler. “We chose the XTS as the cornerstone of the Carey brand because it represented the perfect combination of power, luxury, technology and sophistication that our customers desire and demand today.”
The livery market may be modest compared to the overall U.S. automotive market but it’s not to be readily dismissed. According to the National Limousine Association, there are 9,500 livery companies in this country alone, and they operate more than 130,000 vehicles that they typically trade in on a regular basis as they start clocking too many miles.
No wonder so many competitors are hoping to jump in following the Lincoln Town Car’s demise. Along with Cadillac, Ford and Mercedes-Benz, Toyota is also hoping to catch some sales with a special version of its newly updated Avalon sedan.
Tags: Cadillac XTS, Lincoln MKT, Lincoln Town Car, auto news, cadillac limo, cadillac livery, cadillac news, cadillac xts limo, car news, limousines, lincoln news, livery cars, paul a. eisenstein, paul eisenstein, thedetroitbureau