Mega-luxe ride redefines the limo biz
by Ambrose Clancy
Published in Long Island Business News: February 26, 2010
Thinking about making an impressive entrance?
Here’s an idea: Pull up in a 40- foot-long, 9-foot-high snow-white limo. Glide to a stop opening all three “jet doors” which are hinged at the top so they open up, not out. Smoke wafts to the street from the teak wood inlaid dance floor, complete with center pole where even partiers over 6 feet can stand up straight to boogie. Wrapped in a billowing fog cut by lasers, you step out with your favorite sound deafening all before it at 2,000 watts.
Oh, be sure to have 24 of your friends ready to exit, including the five who are lounging on the rear, open-air patio.
If you can wait six weeks for a booking, the H2 Hummer limo, dubbed “The Transformer” and brought to you by Royal Luxury Limousine, is all yours for $300 an hour. With the local New York limousine business trying to stay out of a recession-created ditch, there’s method in the unique madness of The Transformer, said Mark Bauer. The one-of-a-kind ride was created by Royal Limo and put together by a Brooklyn shop (Top Limo NY Coachbuilders) for about $300,000. Jaws having been dropping at the sight of the thing for the past two months.
“You’ve got to come up with something different, something people haven’t seen before, to stay afloat,” said Bauer, who owns 10 vehicles serving New York City, Long Island, Westchester and New Jersey. “And if you can stay afloat, you’ll make it.”
He buys new vehicles every year, he said. Joining The Transformer is an Audi Q7 limo which features a fish tank and fireplace.
The limousine business lost up to 40 percent from corporate clients slashing budgets last year and about 25 percent from weddings, said Matt Silver, vice president of The Nassau Suffolk Limousine Association, representing about 100 companies.
Silver noted that Long Island has crashed even harder than the rest of the country because of the dense population and the number of firms operating here.
But he has seen a pick-up of about 5 percent this year over last so there are signs the limo business might be back in gear.
In another marketing boost, Royal Luxury Limousine is taking center stage in two reality TV shows currently shooting and debuting this spring. One of them is America’s Next Top Model.
Business has been off but is beginning to come back, he said. “People are always going to get married.”
Driver Dominick Bonilla said he still isn’t quite used to the public’s reaction to The Hummer Transformer. “Every time out it’s an adventure,” Bonilla said from behind the wheel of the behemoth.
He described cruising Times Square with the windows open, the music pumping and the back patio full of partiers, as driving through a dream.
“Wherever we go, people flock to us like we have the cure for the plague or something,” Bonilla said.