Pret-a-Reporter

What Will Replace the Lincoln Town Car?

Courtesy Ford Motor Co.

The unremarkable yet iconic Lincoln Town Car -- the ubiquitous executive car that has long ferried the industry to and from airports, awards shows and everything in between -- has been put out to pasture. The third-generation version of the luxury sedan ended production in August after a 13-year run. The $47,000 car has long dominated the "black car" livery business (livery vehicles often have stretched wheelbases to allow for more legroom and are loaded with luxury features). About 90 percent of the L.A. sedan fleet of, for example, Music Express, a car-service company popular in Hollywood, are Town Cars.

Lincoln is replacing the Town Car in 2012 with a livery version of its MKT crossover. With an SUV body, it's a departure from tradition but will offer new features such as WiFi and a USB charging port. But the decision to kill the Town Car has opened the door for other manufacturers. It's not an insignificant corner of the marketplace. Although Lincoln sold only 7,882 Town Cars for the 2011 model year (about 90 percent to fleet operators), it regularly sold more than 50,000 a year earlier in the 2000s. Mercedes offers fleet-friendly vehicles, and Cadillac is introducing a livery version of its forthcoming XTS luxury sedan. "It's a small but important segment for the XTS," says Kristen Rubi, spokeswoman for Cadillac parent GM, "and it is definitely something we are pursuing."

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