by Jessicka Loduca
Notions of what is essential to consumers are always changing. High-end goods like limousines are generally considered a luxury, but some jetsetters consider them primary needs. Yet in this current economic downturn, there is a decline in the number of premium products consumers are willing to splurge on.
National Specialty Cars (NSC) is one of many companies dealing in luxury products whose business is affected by the current economic crisis. Mainly specializing in limousine and custom car restorations, NSC has been dealing with the prevailing economic situation by shifting their focus onto a more reliable source of business – funeral services.
“It’s hard for limousine companies because the first thing that people cut out of their lives are the luxuries,” said Maddie Bodenstein, CEO for NSC. “Currently we are moving toward the hearse business.”
In shifting their consumer sales to hearses – what Bodenstein calls a more secure commodity – she expects the economic situation won’t hit the company quite as hard. Bodenstein says banks prefer investing in funeral service companies because it’s a more assured business move. They aren’t willing to take a risk on a vehicle that may eventually become repossessed.
“Finance companies (prefer) funeral homes more than limousine companies because they are secure; they aren’t just about to go under in the next year,” Bodenstein said. “With what’s going on now in the industry, what you’re seeing is limousine companies aren’t able to get leasing and financing for their vehicles.”
When NSC first began they specialized in both limousine and funeral services. These did not only include hearses, but also 6-door limousines. Eventually, NSC focused more on their limousine service, being a more lucrative business than hearses.
But the industry has changed dramatically since the company first started. In 1999, NSC first got their certification from two of the Big Three companies. This gave their business a boost.
“Once Ford and GM certified us, things were very good. (At least) up until last year, when the economic crisis struck,” Bodenstein said. “Canada is traditionally a Cadillac funeral industry. As we got into the Ford lines, we transitioned into being more into the limousine business.”
After thriving in the limousine industry, NSC eventually moved back into funeral specialties. With the downward spiral of the economy, they felt it was the best business move.
Another strategy NSC adopted to attract customers is refurbishing vehicles.
“We are able to fix up the interiors and the exteriors, making the cars look new again,” she said. “That really appeals to customers.”
For Bodenstein, the future depends largely on the fate of the auto industry, especially of the Big Three.
“In five years, as long as things improve, I see the company keeping to the funeral side of things, but also going back to doing more limousines again,” she said. “But that depends on Ford and GM and what they are going to certify.”