Luxury Coach & Transportation

March 2016

Magazine for the professional limousine, charter and tour industry.

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84 WWW.LCTMAG.COM LIMOUSINE, CHARTER & TOUR MARCH 2016 Martin Romjue Watch Those Trend Spend Lines EDITOR'S EDGE I MARCH 2016 LAS VEGAS, NEV. — LIKE NOTHING ELSE, the International LCT Show concentrates and distills the sum total of the global chauffeured transportation industry into three packed days and nights. You fnd it all here: Just about every vehicle, product, vendor, topic, strategy, meeting, social event, or conversation to be had about all things chauffeured transportation. The Show by its nature spotlights those products and ideas considered the latest, cutting edge, must-have, game-changers. Any company oriented long-term should pay attention to what can keep it relevant. What to embrace is another issue. The challenge in assessing all the pitches, ideas and products is to discern what will sustain your business, and what could amount to a costly fash in the pan. Two recent developments related to the automotive world serve as cautionary tales, and underscore that every business decision must evaluate endurance: Brand Overboard Toyota announced in February the end of its Scion brand, the cubicles on wheels hyper-marketed and engineered to a new generation. I read a head- line rich with meaning, whether intended or not: "Toyota scraps its youth-oriented Scion nameplate." Scion launched in the 2003 model year to much fanfare as a fagship for Generations X and Y auto consumers. Except the young trendsetters grew up and are now a little older and wiser with more money, which means they choose solid brands with more aforethought. The new newer generation, hooked on app conveniences, obviously isn't buying the Scion in enough numbers to create a proftable model line. So Scion is gone after only 13 years. I consider that a failure when measured in car years. If I were a Scion owner, I'd think I'd been had, as my car gets thrown on the automotive dustbin heaped up by goners such as AMC and Yugo, two other relics of passing consumer tastes. Now look at the brands in the chauffeured transportation industry: Lincoln, Cadillac, BMW, Mercedes-Benz, Chrysler, Toyota (minus Scion), Audi, etc. Our grandparents would recognize those nameplates. Even the comparatively newer ones, such as Hyundai and Kia, already have a few decades of longevity in the U.S. and are positioned to last. They'll likely still be around in 13 years. When choosing how to reinvest hard-earned profts back into your business, it's best to see which products and ideas have evolved in a measured, not abrupt fashion. What is the legacy of a product and its brand, or its company? What are its inspirational infuences if completely new? What variables will determine its success? What are long-term plans? How has it adapted and met challenges? How has it bounced back from failures? Who's behind it and why? Youthful trends are fckle and age out. Maturity matters. Greener Pastures The second development that should make us all pause is the fortunes of the ethanol fuel indus- try. Look no further than the Iowa Caucuses last month, where the one candidate bold enough to take on that state's sugar-babied sacred cow of an industry, Ted Cruz, won one of the partisan rounds. As recently as seven years ago, ethanol was sup- posed to be a bio-fuel of the future with E-85 the progressive stamp of approval on vehicles. Except, ethanol requires mass infusions of tax- payer subsidies, fails to save on carbon emissions, eats up cropland that should be used to grow food, thereby driving up food infation worldwide, and is not that good for your engine. Add the failures of ethanol to the fading allure of green vehicles overall due to lower gas prices, and you see an anti-trend brewing. Aside from special interest realms, much of the American public is either indifferent or hostile to ethanol. Many of us motorists know this, which is why when I pull up to a fuel pump with an ethanol 10% sticker, I drive off and buy real gas else- where. The lesson on the ethanol surge is that every trend or movement has a vested interest. Motives matter. Sizing Up Sizzle There's nothing inherently wrong with a big splash for a new product, service, idea or trend. The test is whether substance amasses beneath the style. As transportation network companies (TNCs), new technologies and Millennials shape the market, the limousine industry retains the advantage of being what I will call an old business soul. This industry succeeds on the eternal values of high service standards, safety and legality, client devotion, and established quality luxury brands. It always has to fnd better ways to provide one of the oldest services around: Drive someone from point A to point B. Such a business structure pro- vides an informed perspective from which to evalu- ate new ideas and trends: Do they incrementally extend from past successes and experience, or are they feeting, glitzy market spasms, likely to burst and then convulse? At least the LCT Show is the best place to swap in- formation and fnd things out for yourself. I'm relieved I've never heard of a limousine feet owner springing for a sand-boxy little Scion. Fads eventually fall fat. Don't let your business fatline with them. martin@lctmag.com

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