RICK KRANZ

Lincoln wins the U.S. livery and limo market -- by default

Rick Kranz is product editor for Automotive NewsRick Kranz is product editor for Automotive News
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CHELSEA, Mich. -- Lincoln likely will have the livery and limousine market to itself.

Chrysler Group has no plans to revive its stretched 300 sedan.

The workhorse of the livery and limousine market for decades has been the rear-drive Lincoln Town Car. Ford Motor Co. targeted that market because it created a halo over the Lincoln line and incremental volume for the Town Car line.

Lincoln offers a livery version with a six-inch stretched wheelbase giving rear-seat passengers more legroom. Lincoln also offers a special equipment package for coachbuilders who cut the car in half to create a limo.

Over the years, limo fleets and coachbuilders have preferred the rwd Town Car over Cadillac's front-drive offerings. Cadillac over the last decade offered full-sized sedans for the livery market, but exited the business after disappointing sales.

Meanwhile, the days of the rear-drive Town Car are numbered. Production ends in mid-September. The rwd vehicle is to be replaced by a fwd version based on the MKT that also will be called Town Car. Sales are expected to begin next spring.

Ford plans to market the Lincoln MKT as a livery and limo replacement for the Town car.

Photo credit: LINCOLN

After the polarizing design for the upcoming MKT-based Town Car crossover was revealed, Chrysler was expected to re-enter the market with the redesigned, elegant-looking 300. After all, the 300 is rwd and that's what the market wants, right?

Curt Edgar, who heads product planning for the Chrysler Group, said the automaker is not interested.

Chrysler tried with the previous generation 300 sedan. A model was created with a six-inch stretched wheelbase that was aimed at the livery market, but sales failed to take off.

"There is not a huge demand on that side of the business. If it is not huge volume it is tough to make a business case," said Edgar, who was interviewed at a Chrysler press event a few weeks ago.

The 300 was shipped from the Ontario assembly plant to a separate company, making it "more difficult, more expensive to do," he said.

Based on styling, my guess is back seat passengers would prefer to be seen in an elegant-looking sedan, such as the 300.

But business is business.

Instead, the streets of New York, Chicago and Los Angeles will be filled with black crossovers that no one will seriously call a limo.

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