Motorcoaches stretch the limousine business
Best Chauffeured Worldwide makes the move to Van Hool C2045s and quits farming out work
By Glenn Swain
An emerging trend in the limousine industry has to do with companies investing in one or more full-size motorcoaches to accommodate clients requesting transportation for larger groups. The trend is inviting a new and broader market beyond that one celebrity in the backseat or small groups traveling in minibuses. Best Chauffeured Worldwide, Huntington Beach, CA, is one such company.
The company opened in 1997 typically sporting a fleet of stretch limousines, Town Cars, SUVs and minibuses. However, late last year company owner Robert Vaughn elected to expand Best Chauffeured Worldwide to include a 56-passenger luxury motorcoach. In his anticipation of this niche growing larger, Vaughn will soon take delivery on the two new Van Hool C 2045 motorcoaches he ordered from ABC Companies, Faribault, MN.
Prior to making this move, Vaughn would typically call on other motorcoach operators in his area to outsource the larger group bookings. He says adding the motorcoach option has made an immediate difference.
“We have built our company as a meeting and destination service,” Vaughn says. “Back in 2005 we started to consider getting into the motorcoach business because we were farming out so much work. It only made sense to purchase coaches of our own. We were looking to do that, but then the bottom of the economy fell out and we decided to back off.”
“Ideally, I would like to be operating four new Van Hool coaches by the end of the year,” he says. “My plan is to grow this new division of our company.”
Vaughn worked closely with his ABC Companies sales team to achieve a top quality customized look for this new venture.
“To maintain the look and feel of the luxury we already offer, I went for the high-end interior appointments,” he says. “We want to carry that right on into the coaches.”
The new Van Hools come with a TV system with interior monitors, DVD players, extra large tinted view windows and a large luggage compartment.
“We were losing out on some work to meeting planners or a DMC who’s going to book a group with us,” Vaughn says. “We would lose a group potentially if they had one or two motorcoach moves in it. We said we have the work built in, so let’s start with a couple coaches and see how it goes. With the amount of work we farm out, it was easy to say we’re going to go and invest in a couple of large vehicles. It wasn’t like we were adding vehicles then going out to drum up business.”
Vaughn says on average he used to outsource about$500,000 in coach charters every year. Now with one motorcoach on the road and two more arriving soon, that money will go directly to the company.
“This year has been a better year than last year,” Vaughn adds. “The timing is right to move ahead in 2011.”
In 1995 Vaughn, then in his late teens, was working for his father’s towing business as a graveyard dispatcher. At the time his father wanted him to learn the tow business by driving a truck.
“I said it was really my thing, let’s look at doing something else,” he says. “We purchased our first limousine and have grown from there.”
With the purchase of one white limousine, Vaughn founded Best Limousine Service. Vaughn and his father began modestly by serving the wedding and weekend limousine rental market and quickly built an outstanding reputation. Within the first year, Best grew to five vehicles and began marketing to corporations, travel agencies and local destination services companies.
The company grew substantially and maintained a large fleet serving several of the top Orange County corporations, celebrities, VIPs, hotels, meeting planners and DMCs. Best Chauffeured Worldwide is now connected to affiliates worldwide that service 500 cities and 50 countries – 24 hours a day – 365 days a year. Vaughn purchased the company from his father a couple of years ago, and still has the tow business. Currently, the company employs over 100 people.
“I see a lot of limousine operators starting to look more at the minibuses as opposed to the large coaches right now,” he says. “We are definitely seeing fewer limousines and more vans and minibuses than we have seen in the past. One or two minibuses in a fleet is not that big of a deal, but a couple of motorcoaches represents a huge step, and makes sense for those of us operating in Southern California to bring on more of that type of equipment.”
With the Van Hools, Vaughn plans to book more charter tours and trips to more destinations outside of Southern California.
Vaughn says as Best Chauffered Worldwide moves further into the motorcoach side of the business, he wants to present a professional operation that gives the motorcoach industry a good name. BR