Are bigger vehicles really better? According to Limocentric, the official LCT blog, the answer is a resounding “yes.” Sara McLean, publisher of LCT summed it up with this statement:
When you are chauffeur driven, you want BIG.
Martin Romjue, editor of Limocentric and LCT, followed with this:
We shouldn’t even have to say this, but with compact cars creeping into the industry, it can’t be said enough. BIG vehicles ‘R Us.
Considering LCT’s nearly pathological distain for healthy skepticism of the Prius, it’s easy to dismiss these statements, but the question remains, is bigger really better?
To find the answer, I decided to consult the magical Google Trends.
For those of you unaware of this amazing tool, it’s a free service provided by Google that shows the latest search trends. Most people use it to check the hot trends, but it’s also a great historical search tool.
Let’s Establish a Baseline
As everyone knows, the limo industry is in the tank. To see this in all its depressing glory, I pulled up a trend search for “limousine.”
As the economy has collapsed, the trend has moved downward. Fluctuations in the trend curve show increased demand during prom and wedding season, but the trend is steady and predictable.
Another search for “stretch limo” shows the same thing:
Is there hope?
The key is to go big …. really big.
This is the search for “limo bus”:
And the final search for “party bus”:
As you can see, the buses are bucking the trend. In tough economic times, people are saving money by splitting the cost amongst large groups. It’s clearly a case of bigger is better. LCT called it right.
Is it time to buy a bus?
If you run a successful retail limo business with brand dominance in your market, go for it. If you’re just starring out and think this is the key to success, don’t do it. A party bus is the icing on the cake of a successful limo business. It’s a huge investment with considerable risk. It’s also a sea of DOT regulation that a new operator shouldn’t navigate.
If you’re new, start with a few used stretches, build your marketing, and when a market presence is established, buy a bus. Party buses may be trending upward, but it’s still a difficult economic environment. The best move may be to simply preserve cash and dig in for the long haul.
But, why is bigger really better? Is it just economics? I don’t think so – I think that people are looking for less costly options: costly, not only in economic terms, but in environmental terms as well. Go back to Google Trends and look at “green transportation”, “green weddings”, “green events” and “green meetings” and you will see what may actually be the real motivating trends for the change in vehicle preferences.
However, buses aren’t, necessarily,the answer – especially in this economic climate, where a big expenditure/commitment just isn’t in the cards.
LEAP has clients that are booking a ton of new business because they can prove that their operations – using their existing fleets – are more environmentally sustainable and, no matter what vehicle, or combination of vehicles they are using, they can demonstrate that their customers are partnering with a company that is reducing emissions by as much as 40%. And, they can prove it to the customer through detailed reporting.
And, of course, getting your operation on a sustainable plan costs much, much, much less than a new bus.
Again common sense prevails in this article concerning party buses. The graphs were well defined and easy to follow. With our party-going society a bus like this sounds like a heck of a lot more fun than a Prius The passengers in those cramped-up vehicles don’t look too happy and could probably use a stiff drink. Of course an owner who doesn’t understand the limousine business and purchases a party bus will probably end up having many stiff drinks…Skoal!
@Pat – No matter your political views on the subject, “environmental consciousness” is becoming increasingly important in the transportation industry. I see the “green” marketplace effecting operators in three ways:
1) Stretch SUVs – These may have saved the industry in the late 90’s, but they’re now a liability. SUV sales are plummeting and their environmental unpopularity is blowing back on the limo biz.
2) 18-25 year olds – This demographic is key to retail limo operators and the most environmentally aware of any previous generation.
3) Corporate RFPs – A green component is becoming an increasingly common part of RFPs. If you don’t have your green credentials in order, you can kiss the corporate work goodbye.
Price will always drive limo rentals, but “Green” economics are clearly on an upward trend. I guess it’s time to call LEAP 🙂
@Felix – It sounds like you’ve already had a few 🙂