Weekend Head Scratcher: What Is The Future Of Limos and Livery Cars?
In his write-up on the new Town Car-replacing livery version of the Lincoln MKT, Jack Baruth takes on the practical issues at stake, writing
I’ve put plenty of miles on both the MKT and the outgoing Town Car. Make no mistake, the MKT is quieter, faster, more spacious, and possessed of a vastly superior level of interior technology. If you told me that I would need to run one up a curb at sixty miles per hour for the purpose of avoiding a wandering falafel vendor across 110th Street, however, I wouldn’t think twice before reaching for the old-style keys. Ford has their work cut out for them.
Well, livery fleet owners think Ford’s got its work cut out for it too… but not for the practical wear-and-tear reasons that Jack points out. No, the problem, according to the owner of one Chicago-area limo company [via AN [sub]] is that
What I heard from most people is that they’re dissatisfied. It’s mainly the appearance, which is a crossover vehicle. People are used to what they consider a luxury vehicle for their clients and this has got a bit of a van styling to it.
Yes, as is so often the case in the great automotive discussions of our day, aesthetics trump all. And in this case, the shallow critique might actually be fairly valid. Not only is the MKT seen by some as being “unrelentingly grotesque” (to borrow a phrase), but limos are typically the most traditional, conservative vehicles on the road. Though clearly the better vehicle, would a baleeen-grilled crossover impart the same sense of timeless gravitas as a black Town Car? Another limo fleet owner encapsulates the issue with a rhetorical question:
When you say limo, I know what that means now, but will it mean the same thing a year from now? Will I be thinking about the Lincoln or will I be thinking about all kinds of vehicles?
Well, is the MKT up to filling the Town Car’s shoes? Or will limo and livery buyers look to a more traditional replacement (hello, Chrysler 300)? Is the livery car’s conservative image about to be blown wide open, or is it more resilient than that?
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Perhaps I'm missing something, but does riding or being seen entering/exiting a limo equate to a luxury experience in anyone's mind? In my experience they're only rented for high school dances and bachellorette parties to wine country - and typically smell like disinfectant and gasoline. I can see where the hearse market needs a rig, but couldn't they be served by a Ford Transit or Dodge Sprinter? And how often does a typical funeral home need to replace the fleet? They travel at 10 miles per hour and get rubbed down with a diaper every day. Limos are dinosaurs...let them die.
Another market Ford is throwing away by neglecting the Panthers. I've noticed this year that the higher end livery companies here have already started the switch from real Town Cars to Chrysler 300s and a few Navigators. I am assuming that something similiar is taking place in most other major cities' as well.