The Changing Shape of Limousines for 2011
Healthy, well-adjusted people are supposed to embrace change. But is the U.S. ready for a whole new look in limousines? Get ready — this is a major departure from what the public has known and loved for the last decade.
Many adults will remember what older model stretch limousines looked like in the 1970s and 1980s — extremely boxy and hard-edged Lincoln behemoths that could hardly be described as sleek.
In 1990, the Lincoln Town Car was given a slightly more rounded shape, softening the edges just a bit for a more aerodynamic look. In 1998, today’s Town Car was introduced to raves. This particular model so captured the hearts and minds of livery, car service and chauffeured transportation clients and operators alike that the model has gone largely unchanged for more than a decade.
For two years, our industry has been warned that the much-loved vehicle’s era is ending. All of this time, owners have been anxious: what could Lincoln offer that would be comparable? Would it be even better? What would the new shape be? And most importantly, how will paying clients react?
In just a few months, the impressive run of the long-enduring Lincoln Town Car (corporate America’s favorite sedan) will be over. Toward the end of 2010, industry insiders were given a photographic peek at the replacement: the new Lincoln MKT — a crossover-inspired sedan with a more sporty feel.
Fast forward to Winter 2011. My husband, Daniel, and I attended the national LCT trade show in Las Vegas last month, and like so many other limousine company owners and operators, could not wait for a first glimpse of, and a close encounter with, the future of our industry. There, upon entering the convention space, was the greatly anticipated 120″ stretch black prototype, front and center. Dozens of other owners and operators from across the country buzzed about the shiny offering like the first spectators in what would become Area 51.
What was this strange object? Where was the trunk? Had the passenger capacity changed? How would our customers feel about a move away from the traditional and toward the sporty?
Once inside, convention attendees tried to envision themselves as clients. Questioning glances turned into whispers of uncertainty. Clearly the width of the passenger compartment had shrunk from the familiar Town Car stretch limousine to which the public is accustomed. It seemed like the MKT was about 12″ narrower … when people tried to sit on the “J” seat that usually runs the length of most traditional limousines, they had to put their feet under the beverage bar in order to be seated comfortably. The J seat also seemed to be much smaller than existing J seats.
Outside of the vehicle, and throughout meeting rooms, hallways, cocktail lounges and seminar spaces, there seemed to be growing consensus. The MKT prototype was the leading topic of conversation across Las Vegas for the remainder of the convention, and there seemed to be no owner who was particularly enthusiastic about the new model. Of the 60 to 70 owners and operators we spoke with, none were genuinely excited about the MKT.
We understand from the coachbuilder that the prototype came together at the last minute, and was open to suggestions. Perhaps future attempts will yield better results. But if not the MKT, what then?
Click here to view the un-stretched Lincoln MKT: http://www.lincoln.com/crossovers/mkt/?searchid=426441|28115542|205348081