Limo operator sees future in vans
The future of the limousine market isn’t stretched – it’s van-shaped. With VOSA increasingly tightening the regulations on the stretched limo sector, operators are finding the solution not in massively elongated SUVs or outrageously stretched American saloons -but in vans.
The Grand Illusion Limo Cruiser – based on a Mercedes Sprinter 511CDi – is a 16-seater limo that was on display at the Professional Driver judging day last month. Operated by Peter Waterhouse's London based Speedicars Group under its Starlight Limosines brand, the Grand Illusion holds 16 people with easy walk-on access, has 40-inch and 20-inch plasma screens, full leather seating, floor and wall lighting, crystal glassware and decanters, and DVD surround sound. And, just as importantly, room to stand up and sit down in comfort.
"The Mercedes cost us £85,000 plus VAT to purchase and holds 16 people, whereas a normal stretch costs around £60,000 and only holds eight people," said Waterhouse. "The Mercedes also comes with a three-year/unlimited mileage warranty, too, as it's an approved conversion."
Starlight Limos hires out the Grand Illusion for about £20 per person depending on distance. "I expect to cover my costs and be in profit within 18 months," Waterhouse continued, adding the vehicle was proving popular with hen nights or groups touring London's nightclub scene. He said he would operate the Grand Illusion on a five-year basis before selling it, and was in the process of buying a second model from 1st4Limo Sales.
The Grand Illusion is Certificate of Initial Fitness (COIF) approved for use as a 16-seater, and is marketed by 1st4Limo Sales, which holds the worldwide licence for the Grand Illusion. "We also do a Grand Illusion based on the VW Crafter, but the Mercedes is the more popular," commented 1st4Limo Sales sales director Mike Dale.
"We have the Grand Illusion converted by Stanford Coaches, and carry out six conversions a year," Dale continued. "However, we do more than just sell you the limo, we also provide any purchaser with a business support package that includes a bespoke website for your limo operation.
"The nice thing about the Grand Illusion is the comfort and the headroom. You can sit opposite each other without banging your knees and without that feeling you're sitting on the floor. In addition, the drivers find them much easier to drive than a normal stretch," he added.