The plump Lincoln Town Cars that provide a ride as soft as a pillow are clogging city streets and airport access roads these days - a sign that the $2.4 billion chauffeured transportation business in the United States is doing well, particularly with corporate customers.
"Chauffeured cars are no longer considered such a luxury," said Scott A. Solombrino, chief executive and owner of Dav El, the second-biggest limousine company. "They're an efficiency tool mostly for highly paid executives who often don't have time to rent a car."
Perhaps the biggest indication of the bright long-term prospects for chauffeuring services is the Avis Budget Group's recent $60 million investment in Carey International, the industry leader with 2006 revenue of about $250 million.
Part of the lure was Carey's stake in the corporate market, which, according to Gary L. Kessler, Carey's chief executive, represents more than 80 percent of its business. The Avis purchase was definitely noticed on both sides of the street: the rental-car companies searching for new ways to grow and chauffeured entrepreneurs who envy the marketing prowess and deep pockets of the big rental car brands."We're entering a huge period of consolidation," Mr. Solombrino said.
The strong market in the United States comes at a time when the major growth is overseas, according to Camella Lobo, a senior editor at Limousine & Chauffeured Transportation magazine, which tracks the industry. As American companies go global, their managements look for the same services abroad as they get at home, she said.