Operators who made it through Hurricane Katrina in 2005 can tell you much about preparing for disaster. There may be severe storm damage in the U.S. this year, according to reports. What can you do? The National Federation of Independent Business offers a helpful article
HOPE ON THE HORIZON:
Oil below $100 a barrel seems cheap, almost quaint, now that operators are afflicted with $4 a gallon gas costs. In a letter by the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas
, analysts point to future new supplies as an antidote to sustained three-digit per barrel costs. This study underscores a reality of future energy markets; there are no either/or options, only ALL. Oil can never be eliminated as an energy source. To meet increased energy demands, the world will need more oil, more nuclear power, more green technologies, more conservation, and more fuel-efficient vehicles and behaviors. Detailed study here
DISCOUNTED BUSING: Megabus.com
is about as far as you can get from a luxury chauffeured transportation service, but the concept cannot be ignored. The $1-fare bus company launches new East Coast service
As an increasing number of operators venture into the limousine bus and party bus markets, it becomes even more important to distinguish such quality service from the cattle call approach. In down economic times, consumers increasingly look for cheap bargains.
While the L&CT industry should never sell out to mass transit concepts, it pays to play up the overall value of the comfortable and convenient transportation this industry offers.
And $1 bus fares may not work too well, as recent developments
in Los Angeles show. -- M.R.
National Public Radio ran a story this week on what impact party buses are having on the prom market. Click here
to listen to the story. Reasons why this is happening are given, and interviews with promgoers shed more light on the subject.
LOOSE LIPS BOOST LIMOUSINES:
Nothing promotes an operator more than recurring client words-of-mouth. As this automotive site shows
, client testimonials can bolster reputations and bring in more business. As several operators have told LCT, creating an experience is as important as providing a solid service.
You thought rising gas prices was giving you a lot of headaches? Well, how about tire prices also shooting up, starting in June? That seems to be the case, according to the Tire Industry Association. Read what's happening and some tips for making tires last longer.
Read full story
FUELING FATHER'S DAY:
Of course -- what makes for a better Father's Day gift than to offer Dad a ride in a limousine. Imagine Dad relaxing in the accompanying photo, courtesy of Executive Coach Builders
of Springfield, Mo. Credit for the Father's Day idea goes to this Dallas company
It's an obvious transportation treat for a Father's Day family dinner outing, or you can just let Dad ride in the limousine alone. He no doubt would find the TV, wet bar, relaxed seating, smooth ride, and passing scenery a worthwhile stress-reliever.
Limousine operators should work harder at marketing the concept that a limo ride for Dad is comparable to a spa visit for Mom. -- M.R.
OUR ROSY SPIN:
The economy grew about 50 percent better
in the first quarter than first reported. GDP growth still languishes under one percent, but at least it's not a worst case scenario.
Stratospheric gas prices are pushing operators toward new marketing ideas and approaches. Operators and their clients have one thing in common: Both want to save on gas costs. This TV report
shows one way. The challenges for operators this year involve working outside of the box -- and helping clients avoid the gas pump as much as possible.
TOO MUCH STRETCHING:
Some vehicles are just better left alone, as chauffeured sedans only. Not every vehicle is meant to be stretched.
The Audi makes for a fine chauffeured vehicle, especially in Europe, with its comforts and performance. Yet the visual of a stretched Audi
looks too rigged and out of place. It's like watching a 45-year-old man with bottle-blond hair, a hoodie, a backward cap, and pair of Vans skateboarding down the street (an all too common sight in California).
Vehicles, like people, should act their age, or in auto terms, match their purpose and image. Leave the stretching to the Big Three -- M.R.
JIM LUFF SAYS: "Anyone who has spent any time in this business knows that when you run a 24/7 operation, the hands on the clock mean nothing. The phone can ring at any hour." Luff talks about how important it is to vacation and "completely unplug and get away from it all."
Read full story
IF SHE CAN SPELL LIMOUSINE
. . . then she certainly deserves to ride in one. LCT salutes the idea of chauffeured rewards
for annual spelling bee contestants. In fact, limo rewards cards for good grades, top test scores
, or academic achievement
may be a good marketing approach for operators aiming toward the youth market. Those youths eventually grow into the future prom market, then the future bachelor, bachelorette, and wedding market, then on to the working corporate travel market, and finally, the wealthy retired leisure market. Chauffeuring a kid to the spelling bee in a limousine could be a lifelong investment.
Springfield, Mo. is the home of several limousine coach builders - S&R Coach, based nearby in Strafford, is no longer one of them. Read all about
how the coach builder shut its doors and has been going through financial/legal conflict with customers, including franchise operators from Racing Limos.
J.D. Power and Associates released survey results from seasoned travelers about their favorite airports to travel through. Do you serve any of these airports? Thinking about it? This LA Times article
lays out the survey details.
VERY SCARY LIMO-SPICE: Scary Spice, one of the Spice Girls, maybe should be renamed Tawdry Spice, or Gaudy Spice.
In an affront to livery practitioners worldwide, the recently resurrected starlet from the 90s hit group Spice Girls horrified onlookers recently with a limousine outfitted for Wild Kingdom. Who knows, maybe animal-themed limousines will become popular for children's birthday parties: a Shamu limo? a Barney limo? It's all too painful to contemplate.
Some "luxury limousine" companies doing business in New York City are going green, although they don't have to.
New York-based Town Car International is one of those companies, said Russ Cooke, CEO. Along with office greening, the company is implementing New York City Taxi & Limousines Commission guidelines. Although it doesn’t belong to the “black car” category; it is alternative-fuel vehicles including natural gas vehicles, hybrids, and bio-fueled vehicles; suggesting shared rides to clients when appropriate; and, using directional and tracking GPS units in all vehicles to improve usage and travel time, Cooke said.
Avoiding the mandatory purchase of fleet vehicles that get at least 25 mpg is a relief for "luxury limousine" operators. "Black car" operators are seeing the other side of the coin...
Read full story
DON'T BLAME THE LIMOS:
The main culprit for high gas prices isn't so much the fault of dwindling supply, China and India, the global market, ethanol, limousines, or SUVs, or other usual suspects, but more so the result of clueless and detached decision making, as this commentary
New York City operators in the "luxury limousine" category have been very concerned that the 25 mpg rule will apply soon to their category. What does the New York City TLC have to say about it?
Read full story
RESPECTFULLY: This version of the obituary on NLA board member Julie Herring will appear in the July issue of LCT Magazine. LCT appreciates your past commemorative comments and condolences. Now, we ask that this obituary simply speak for itself.
Read full story
to read a column in the Orlando Sentinel where a chauffeur asked for guidance on the legal issues related to receiving tips from passengers. Feedback from an Orlando -based labor-and-employment lawyer is presented in the story.
FUTURE LIVERY PREFERENCE?
Consumers are showing more interest in Cross Over Utility vehicles, such as the Mercury Mariner Hybrid, than in larger SUVs, according to a survey by NADAguides.com
. What does this mean for chauffeured transportation? If consumer preferences translate into a demand for comfortable CUV livery vehicles, then that means chauffeured transportation companies can buy slightly cheaper vehicles with better mileage. The big question is whether CUV livery vehicles would be perceived by clients as luxurious.
GREENER CARS & POCKETBOOKS
: We at LCT must admit to getting a bit dreamy sometimes about a green world: plenty of trees and grass, lots of greenbacks stuffed into our wallets and bank accounts, and big, comfortable limousines devoid of any energy connections to the Royal House of Saud
So amid per gallon gas prices headed beyond $4, and $130-plus per barrel oil, the limousine and chauffeured transportation industry needs to keep track of ongoing technological progress on the alternative fuels front.
The higher costs of fossil fuels and accompanying rational cost-benefit calculations soon will outweigh any global warming fears as the impetus to greener livery vehicles. So herewith is an installment about clean diesel
as part of the ongoing story of the world's energy transformation. -- M.R.
When the Pennsylvania PUC raised annual assessments by an average of 360%, the Philadelphia Regional Limousine Association had to get very busy, says Philip Jagiela of
Aries Limousine Service and PRLA president.
Read full story
The 5th annual Wedding MBA will be held Sept. 22-25, 2008 at the Phoenix Convention Center. For those LCT readers who work weddings, this is something think about attending. Here are some of the seminar topics: "Sales Slam Dunk - How to Close the Bride NOW," "Seven Ways to Get More Bookings from Bridal Shows," and "Boost Your Google Ranking." Click here
to check out the website.
HYBRID HOT AIR? A study claims the per mile energy costs of most hybrids exceed those of perennial stapes of the chauffeured transportation industry, such as the Town Car, Escalade, and Navigator.
Read full story
Classic limousines, hearses, and ambulances are historically documented and shown off for crowds by the Professional Car Society. And the organization is packed with upcoming events. Did you know that the Alexander & Royalty Funeral Home is hosting its 9th Annual Ice Cream Social and Volunteer Chapter Meet on June 6-7 in Harrodsburg, KY? Click here
to see colorful, historic photos and find out what else is happening in this professional community.
KNEE DEEP IN THE HOOPLA:
Hybrids get a lot of attention as crucial alternatives to fossil-fueled vehicles, but the savings may not be as strong as first thought. This article
shows mixed results in Toronto. While every bit of fuel savings helps an operator's bottom line, does it justify the additional costs and limited maintenance options for hybrid vehicles? Of course, the "image" of being green may lure "eco-minded" clients, but at what point do they see through it all? Are hybrids all about saving fuel and the planet, or just about feeling good about the INTENT to save fuel and the planet? More B.S. detectors needed here.
This Arizona company
has found a way to network with hotels and concierges to provide chauffeured service to restaurants. Article here
Every limousine industry association should have a website. Most do, but it's important to keep them up-to-date, and a site that visitors would come back and use. The Great Lakes Limousine Association, a Michigan organization serving Detroit and other state markets, has upgraded its website. Click here
to see news, an event calender, GLLA officers, downloadable industry documents, and other useful information.
HOPEFULLY, IT WILL WORK:
The more gas prices horrify consumers, the more desirable innovative eco-solutions
appear. Cleaner diesel has succeeded in Europe. While biofuels are a non-starter and losing proposition, the Earth Bus
concept could be a welcome option -- provided it retains all the comforts and conveniences of conventional limo-buses.
EVERYBODY SCREAM: Be careful what you wish for: Global warming alarmism and green-envy could end up putting your financials into the fiery red. A recent study shows that cap-and-trade legislation could have catastrophic consequences for the motoring public, the transportation sector, and the wider economy. Not even hybrid vehicles would save enough to stanch the effects of such high gas prices.
And after all that trouble, guess what? China and India ignore any carbon limits and keep emitting as much carbon as they want anyway. Who knows, maybe their populous, ambitious middle classes may be a better future market for non-green limousines? -- M.R.
Ever seen Limos.com
? This site is popular with customers - it's probably the highest volume limousine booking site in the industry. There's also another page on Limos.com that you should visit, called Limo Forum
. This is the most popular online forum in the industry, and has been for several years. After visiting a few times, you'll learn more about the issues operators are struggling to deal with, and what they've done to resolve their problems. You'll also read some entertaining back-and-forth jabs from certain commentators who will remain nameless. It's worth your time to visit.
A new operator in our industry is also striving to be a screen actor in LA. While he doesn't post his name, he's created a blog
, a MySpace page
, and a website
set up to promote his company and what looks like other chauffeured transportation companies that are being sent reservations booked through this site. The blog, called "Chronicles of a Start-Up Limo Company," goes through, in pain-staking detail, the hassles and satisfactions of starting up in this business.
While we're wallowing in all things French today, here is another reason why the American limousine and livery industry owes some allegiance to the descendants of Lafayette and De Gaulle. Check out the origin of the limousine
FRESH FROM FRANCE:
Pardon our French, but you will get the idea: A chauffeured company in Paris offers an innovative marketing approach
. Substitute any American city for Paris, and you will see how this not-so-new concept can be adapted anywhere. For American operators, the weak dollar means many foreign tourists will arrive this summer who benefit from the type of chauffeured conveniences that this French company
offers. Chauffeured sedans and limousines can go a long way in helping tourists relax for their first visits to any American city. The key is to emphasize convenience, safety, and simplicity for the client(s).
Marci Shimoff is a keynote speaker at this year’s LCT Leadership Summit, which takes place June 1-3 at the Ritz-Carlton South Beach in Miami. Her bestselling book, Happy for No Reason: 7 Steps to Being Happy from the Inside Out, immediately soared to #1 on many national bestseller lists including Amazon and Barnes and Noble.com, and has debuted at #2 on The New York Times and the Wall Street Journal bestseller lists. She's also a featured teacher in the international film and book sensation, The Secret. Click here for more information on Marci and the other dynamic speakers at the up-and-coming Leadership Summit. You can also register for the Summit on this website - if interested, sign up soon, as the maximum number of operators that can attend is filling up.
CHAUFFEURS THRIVE ON RESPECT: Limousine and chauffeured companies work hard to maintain a dignified, elegant, and respectful image. Passengers should do likewise. One way to show respect is to tip the chauffeurs who quietly work behind the scenes to make the ride as smooth and efficient as possible. One operator explained to us that a decent limousine company that charges a gratuity, say 15 percent, should forward the entire amount to the chauffeur. In cases where gratuities are not added, then chauffeurs should be tipped like restaurant servers – 15-20 percent. This account sums up the issue well.
WSJ FRONT PAGE TODAY: Recession? Not So Fast, Say Some.
It seems as if the dire warnings about recession resemble those about global warming: Both have hit a cooling trend, somehow. In fact, some economists heralding a recession are ending up with a little egg on the face, which is a shame given the high price of eggs.
At LCT Magazine, we of course remain cautiously concerned about how a recession would affect the limousine and chauffeured transportation industry. While we've heard reports of operators taking revenue hits of 10-30 percent, we've also talked to operators in Chicago, Charlotte, N.C., North Hollywood, Ca., and Richmond, Va., about how hard they're working just to handle increased business. And our own Jim Luff has experienced the same in Bakersfield, Ca. Our upcoming LCT Fact Book, which is about to go to press, reflects input from operators nationwide who say that their overall business was up through the end of 2007.
Bottom line? Some are hurting, some are gaining, and most will likely remain flat. That's not good news, but it's certainly not an economic crisis. Recessions are never as bad as predicted, and once over, quickly forgotten. No hysteria
needed. -- M.R.
Speaking of Avis Budget Group... the conglomerate now owns 45% of Carey International's common stock, and is looking at increasing that amount in the next year. Read a BTN article
about 1st quarter financials and how Carey did.
TEENS & LIMOUSINES:
See this tip sheet
circulated to parents of teens renting limousines for proms.
Operators can get out front on this issue by circulating their own tip sheets as public service announcements, along with proof of license and chauffeur qualifications.
In fact, the tip sheet, proof, and maybe a discount special package, would make for a great online offer on MySpace or on school websites -- if that's allowed.
It can't be said enough: Limousines are a safe, classy, exciting way for groups of seniors to enjoy the prom. And it's much easier on concerned parents.
Does gassing up in the morning save you money because of the low AM temperature? What about updating your air filter? Wanna know? Click here
to read the CNNMoney.com article.
: If this super-stretch were one inch longer, it would not be legal, according to a story in a Jefferson City, Mo. newspaper.
It's also very popular. Which proves American still love their big, comfortable limousines. The only concern is maneuvering these livery mammoths through hilly neighborhoods. We would not want to see any more limousine humiliations
Avis is certainly expanding its presence in the chauffeured transportation industry through its acquisition of Carey International, and other big steps. Both Avis and Hertz have been critical in Asian markets such as China and India. Click here
to read about the latest in the Indian market, where both companies are cutting deals with major airlines.
GOOD GREENS: In Part II of our propane series, American Alternative Fuel LLC answers key questions about the benefits and application of this alternative fuel. Overall, it is among the leading clean, efficient, U.S.-supplied fuels available, and worth consideration by the chauffeured transportation industry. The main concern is the cost of conversion and availability of propane pumps. Chauffeured vehicles travel widely and often and need convenient, accessible fuel.
Read full story
PROPANE IS SANE: The trend toward greener vehicles likely will grow, but the bar for admission will rise as well. Not every vehicle billed as green should be pursued as an option. For example, ethanol vehicles are a flop, and for multiple reasons already cited on this blog, likely will fail in the future. But one category worth a serious look is propane. Following is a basic primer on propane vehicles and their potential for future use in chauffeured transportation. More tomorrow.
Read full story
Boston-based operator ETS International was chosen to deliver an extremely rare, giant sea turtle to its mate at China’s Changsha Zoo.
Read full story
FROM ELECTION ROLLS TO THE POLLS:
Why should politicians be the only ones riding around in chauffeured vehicles? Why not the voters?
With the economic challenges mounting each month, limousine operators are looking for creative ways to maintain service and revenues.
Students at the College of William & Mary in Williamsburg, Va., recently used limousines as a way of getting voters to the polls
in local city council elections. In fact, municipal, state, and national elections could be an untapped market for many operators.
Limousines and limo buses would be ideal for bringing senior citizens, college students, groups of co-workers, or anyone without transportation to the polls. And if there's no money to be made, volunteering a limo or two for election year service could be good for a company's image. Just put your name and some American flags on your limousines and advertise it as "complimentary presidential service
." -- M.R.
SUVs are gas guzzlers - popular with chauffeured transportation clients, but they're only willing to pay so much in fuel surcharges. So, the release of the Chevrolet Tahoe Hybrid is getting a lot of attention from operators. Here's a product review
that might be worth your attention.
RETRO GREEN: This loony limo speaks for itself. If it were a work of art, we’d have to categorize it as "improvised minimalism."
A sliced Trabant with a horse likely emits fewer carbons than hybrids, biofueled vehicles, natural gas, propane, hydrogen, and fuel cell vehicles combined. (Well, that depends on the digestive regularity of the horse).
The Trabant, of course, was the socialist stalwart of East European motoring before the Berlin Wall got torn down. For a real livery version of the Trabant, click here
. (Hey, it's really green!)
Constructive suggestion: Let us insist on a fleet of these rickety-clap-clop-clop contraptions for the next Academy Awards ceremony. Such a faux-stagecoach can recall the elegant livery of yesteryear while helping Hollywood herald a greener future. -- M.R.
JIM LUFF SAYS: I recently became aware of the intention of a limousine operator to start a new magazine just for chauffeurs. While there are many chauffeurs who might enjoy having their own magazine, the odds of survival would be slim to non-existent.
Read full story
WHERE LIMO TAXES GO: We at LCT certainly have heard of the old cliché about “limousine liberals,” but that’s such an outdated 1970s term. Three decades later, the American middle and aspiring wealthy classes have grown prosperous enough to routinely afford chauffeured transportation, whether it is for weddings, proms, bachelor parties, airport runs, children’s birthday parties, or special nights out on the town. Passengers of all political persuasions now ride around in limousines and chauffeured sedans in blue and red states. It’s no longer just a pampered celebrity thing.
But what do we make of the Canadian Conservative Party politician who liberally uses taxpayer funds for limousine service? Would she be a “limousine conservationist” since she helps conserve the limousine industry with her liberal spending? Or a conservative liberal user of limousines?
This has us a bit flummoxed, so we’ll just settle for the term “limousine leech.” Although her spending boosts limousine industry revenues, she leeches off taxpayer money so she can leech onto her limousines. And while we applaud liberal limousine patronage overall, by liberals and conservatives, we prefer that it comes from private sector funds and personal pockets -- not public purses. -- M.R.
We're getting the word out on the LCT Top 100 Fleets survey. We hope you can fill out the survey by going to this link
. Who knows? Your fleet might have grown to the point that it's your first time ever on the list... or you should have been there before. We'll be getting the word out through the mail, Driving Force, and e-blasts, and the results will come out in the August issue of LCT Magazine.
NO NEED TO SPEED TO GREEN:
Ford Motor Co.'s plans to use 6-speed transmissions proves you don't have to go green to run lean. Today's announcement shows how steadily advancing technologies can make engines run more efficiently and save fuel. All is not lost for fossil-fueled vehicles, as they undoubtedly will run smoother and cleaner in coming years. In fact, today's engines overall run far more efficiently than comparable ones during the last spike in gas prices during the late 1970s. Nearly all Ford vehicles will have the 6-speed transmissions by 2012. Ford announcement here
HAIL TO LIMO BOB:
Many people inside and outside the limousine industry have heard of Limo Bob; some have even met him.
He's a colorful character and has been in business for years in Chicago, and might even be the focus of a cable TV reality show. He's got a new website full of photos and information.
He's been criticized, but is certainly a popular character; the room was packed at his International LCT Show seminar. Click here to visit the revised website
FUELING THE FACTS: Increased carbon emissions. Wasted taxpayer dollars. Soaring food prices. Hungry, angry consumers.
Congratulations to America’s energy white elephant and eco-myth. This will be the ethanol industry’s deplorable legacy that has cost millions of dollars and helped breed global misery. A recent editorial in the Wall Street Journal simply states the facts.
Any reasonable observer must conclude that ethanol vehicles, and most biofuel vehicles for that matter, are a never-ending boondoggle.
For the limousine and chauffeured transportation industry, the bottom line is simple: Don’t buy E-85 or biofuel vehicles; get rid of the ones in service; and boycott ethanol. There is nothing remotely “green” about it.
It’s time to admit a colossal mistake and put a stake into this subsidized impostor of an industry.
-- posted by Martin Romjue
Edmunds.com has released a new study that highlights
which hybrid vehicles will end up saving consumers money in the long run...
Read full story
If you've never done it before, attending the NLA's once-a-year Day on the Hill is a thing of wonder. You get to walk through underground tunnels to meet with members of Congress and their key staffmembers... you get to smell and feel the history of the country's legislative center... you'll feel like you're making a difference informing decision makers about issues of great concern to chauffeured transportation companies. Go the NLA website
for details and a registration form.
GOOFIN' ON DISNEY: The Wall Street Journal reports today that Walt Disney Co. saw net income rise 22 percent for its second fiscal quarter despite the troubled economy. (WSJ article only available through subscription but L.A. Times version here). Disney’s hotels, resorts, and theme parks all performed above expectations. Bookings for the rest of the year are slightly ahead of those for 2007. Disney, of course, appeals to visitors and tourists of all economic strata. Disney knows all too well that just about anyone who has a child will eventually visit at least one of its theme parks.
So what Disney lessons can be adapted to the limousine and chauffeured transportation industry during tough economic times? Disney CEO Ron Iger told the WSJ:
So here are three ways operators can handle tough times: Offer competitive, special pricing; market to foreign tourists and visitors who may prefer chauffeured services; target U.S. travelers and tourists who may want chauffeured limo day trips this summer instead of an expensive vacation. -- M.R.
1) 75 percent of Disney hotels are “moderately priced” or “value-priced,” compared to 55 percent of rooms that were “premium priced” during the economic downturn of 1991. That has positioned Disney to maintain its customer traffic despite the economic troubles.
2) International visitors are up 25 percent compared to last year because of the weak dollar.
3) U.S. visitors are looking for simpler, shorter trips closer to home, and are more likely to hit theme parks.
DITCHING THE DIVAS OF THE ROAD:
We posted a report
yesterday describing how many American consumers are getting fed up with their bulky, gas-bloated SUVs and pick-up trucks. This has led to a run on some dealerships where owners are unloading their vehicles, even at a loss. But there may be some silver linings for the chauffeured transportation industry.
If there is a glut of used and unsold SUVs, pick-ups, vans, and larger automobiles, it means operators and coachbuilders likely can get cheaper deals on vehicles. That will lower vehicle payments and overhead.
Just because American families get rid of bigger vehicles does not mean they lose their appetites for them. Switching from an Explorer to a Corolla may save money, but the transition likely is miserable, especially if you've gotten used to all that space. So who else but chauffeured transportation and limousine operators to provide luxury vehicles?
This downward market dynamic actually could yield a marketing opportunity for operators. What family wouldn't enjoy an occasional trip in a comfortable chauffeured sedan or SUV for a special outing, say to dinner and movies, a theme park, a day trip, etc.? It could be advertised as a hassle-free arrangement: no gas, no driving, no cleaning, no parking, no worries. That way many Americans can still enjoy the comforts and conveniences of SUVs and larger sedans without having to own, maintain, or fuel one. -- M.R.
FROM JIM LUFF: Whenever he hears operators talk about how much their business is down, he scratches his head and wonders why his revenue is up 30% this year and others' is down that much. Jim explains why in his weekly commentary.
Read full story
DIESEL GETTING MUCH BETTER:
Americans used to hate diesel engines, especially back in the 1970s -- they were too loud and fume spraying to be nearly as well loved as they have become in Europe. This will all change dramatically by Dec. 1, 2010, when the EPA requires all diesel fuel sold in the U.S. to meet its Ultra Low Sulfur Diesel requirements. For operators building up their diesel vehicles, especially through buses, this new rule offers relief and something to sell to clients. Visit the Clean Diesel Fuel Alliance website
for more information.
SUVs GONE BAD: The article below explains how the SUV bubble follows the housing troubles. More Americans are ditching their SUVs -- even at a loss -- because of high gas costs. And many admit they don't need so much on-the-road largesse. So what does it mean for chauffeured transportation operators if American families are willing to trade in their hallowed SUVs and pick-ups for Corollas and Civics? We'll post some silver linings later.
Read full story
FUEL SAVING TIPS: The list below is targeted toward motorists, but can easily be adapted to operators, chauffeurs, and fleet vehicles. Most are common sense reminders that cannot be emphasized enough as average gas prices straddle the $4 threshold. Following these tips can help you avoid being fuelish.
Read full story
Sort of good news: average U.S. gas prices are down 1 cent from a week ago.
Bad news: they're up 28 cents from a month ago.
Very bad news: they're up 55 cents from a year ago.
It's a good idea to visit GasBuddy.com
and search by zip code or city/state for the cheapest gas stations in your area.
Trying to assess the pain of gas prices and the economic slowdown on operators remains a challenge given that economic conditions and customer demand varies among different parts of the country. At LCT, we are getting conflicting reports from operators experiencing the same or slightly more business so far this year, and quite a few who are seeing marginal declines in revenue and demand. So that leaves us with random anecdotes. The Fort Worth Business Press
quotes one owner of Continental Limousine in Fort Worth about the latest state of things.
CHAUFFEUR POSEURS ARE NOT ENTREPRENEURS:
Prom season brings big demand for limousines, and plenty of opportunities for some off-the-books operators. This article
shows how a lack of enforcement in Maryland worsens the problem of illegal operators.
Another investigative TV report
reveals how an illegal operator was netted in Lynchburg, Va.
Both the Virginia Limousine Association
and Maryland Limousine Association
are examples of how associations nationwide can create awareness and enhance enforcement of the problem.
Legal operators should make available upon client request ample proof that they are registered either with the state's Public Utilities Commission, Public Service Commission, or comparable authorizing agency of operator licenses.
Just in case you were planning on attending this show from the U.S., or have other reasons to go to Canada: "Effective January 31, 2008
U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers will no longer accept oral declarations of U.S. or Canadian citizenship from those traveling by land or sea," according to Consular Services at the U.S. Mission in Canada. To read more, visit this website
HIP HOP STAR OFFERS CHAUFFEURED CAR:
Rapper/producer Sean "P.Diddy" Combs has brought his entrepreneurial flavor to the chauffeured transportation industry by starting a chauffeured car service for drunk celebrities
. (Stories here
). In Hollywood, there is definite demand, ala Lindsey
, Paris, Mel, Nick
While this is not a new concept -- smaller operators already have explored and experimented with such a service for non-celebs -- we at LCT applaud any constructive use of chauffeured vehicles. If every drunk driver called a limo or sedan for a ride home, the industry would see a drastic increase in revenue.
However, we do recommend that the vehicles used to pick-up drunk celebrities do not have any onboard bars -- either dry or wet.
So, we hope if P.Diddy offers the usual palette of black, comfortable sedans and stretches, that the limo bars
be replaced with limo beds
, or at least a good greasy breakfast buffet
table. -- M.R.
Have you ever heard of LCT Canada? If the answer is no, that might be because it's brand new. LCT Canada's first-ever conference is coming up July 20-21, 2008, at Toronto Hilton. This 2-day conference will feature educational seminars with topics such as Canada's governmental incentives for the industry, business basics, marketing, green fleets, and more. Toronto-based Rosedale Livery Ltd. is an official sponsor. LCT's event department has started a new website for the conference - click here
Yes, it is prom season. There are two magazines that might be worth your attention - for advertising your company to prom planners and attendees, and for staying current on fashion trends in the business. Click here
to visit Prom Guide, and click here
to visit Your Prom - both of them are worth your while.
GAUDY IS GOOD: Thank goodness for pink limos and Elvis impersonators. Where would this industry be without them?
Although Elvis and the pink Ford SUV stretch were shot at a limousine trade show in the U.K., American coachbuilders have set the gold standard for limousines with flash and flair.
As chauffeured transportation becomes more corporate and discreet, it is important for the industry to retain and promote its bolder, wilder side.
Tricked out limousines make life fun and shows the industry’s sense of humor. We at LCT would love to see more operators opt for the elaborate over the mere efficient. And how about that Elvis? The right mix of chauffeur training and acting classes could yield a growing class of livery employee: the character chauffeur. (Here is the Australian operator).
STELLAR SAFETY RECORD: Vintage Limousine Service Inc.
of Yorkville, N.Y. recently received a safety award from Lancer Insurance
, one of the leading insurers in the limousine and chauffeured transportation industry. Read a local media report
Allaire Worldwide Chauffeured Transportation, based in Farmingdale, N.J., and led by president Mike Renehan, is providing a good example to the industry. The company is adding more hybrids to its fleet and using this new logo to get the word out to clients and the community. This lively image should make Allaire stand out more in people's minds, especially those concerned about "green" transportation options, which is definitely a growing trend.
PEAKS AND VALLEYS:
With the ongoing national obsession with recession, and everyone in a hurry to worry, we thought we'd post some surprisingly positive economic news
-- even if it may just last for a day. Limousine and chauffeured transportation operators should avoid being negative, and instead focus on the creative and the innovative. This industry offers both the practical and the pleasurable, and should never shrink from marketing its flexible services as such. Maybe our flummoxed Fed Chairman could use some tender-lovin livery
to relax and work on an economic chill pill.
ELABORATE ENVIRONS: A recent limousine trade show in the United Kingdom sponsored by the British trade magazine, The Chauffeur, did not match the all-inclusive International LCT Show 2008 in size and attention, but it did put itself on the map with flair.
A popular attraction at the show was the gallery of large limo party mobiles, all tricked out with other-worldly interiors full of colors and lights. These limousines make livery fun, and provide an escapist form of on-the-road entertainment. We hope this segment of the LCT industry remains viable and prospers. Such vehicles add diversity and a dash of daring to an industry that should never allow itself to become drab. Click on this link and scroll down to click on: View our pictures of luxurious limousine interiors
to see the full gallery.
We at LCT believe the tricked out mega-limos are perfect for all types of events and rentals beyond the traditional bachelor and bachelorette parties, and could provide opportunities for new clients: 1) children’s birthday parties; 2) bar mitzvahs and bat mitzvahs; 3) high school football and basketball games; 4) youth “road-trip” slumber parties (pick-up everyone in pajamas and ride around for the evening); 5) graduation service; 6) rock concert trips; 7) a "reward ride" for good school report cards.
Keeping kids occupied and away from a steering wheel is an all-around winner for everyone. Elaborate limousines not only make that possible, but also keep it real, cool, rad, hip, etc.
-- posted by Martin Romjue
As LCT Magazine has learned since starting LimoLicious, blogs are becoming a more important source of online information -- for reading news, opinion pieces, and rumors, viewing lively photos, and enticing readers to return. It's good to get pointers on making blogs work for your company, which a growing number of limousine companies are doing. Click here
to read an article in Entrepreneur that just might help.
Meetings and conventions are a major source for chauffeured transportation companies - just ask Bedford Wynne, director of event services at Wynne Sedan & Limousine Group in Dallas. Wynne is very active in the Dallas chapter of Meeting Professionals International, which has been a source of business for his company. He's also met several mentors and friends through the meetings. Click here to visit the MPI website.