By Susan Rose
Buses of all shapes and sizes have consistently dominated fleet talk for the past few years, but the tried-and-true sedan remains the leading segment of most operators’ fleets. Like the bus market, choices for livery sedans have shifted and continue to evolve as the American automotive world steadies itself for a competitive future—one that drastically changes how we interact with our vehicles.
Volvo first caught the eye of Tony Mehdiof, CEO of Atlanta’s North Point Global Transportation Services, when he noticed the Volvo booth at the 2017 Chauffeur Driven Show in Orlando. It was the first year the automaker was exhibiting on the show floor as well as its first real marketing efforts within the chauffeured ground transportation industry. The company had earmarked its S90 sedan, a full-size luxury offering with black-on-black styling, a livery package, and a livery warranty, for our space, but it was the attractive fleet incentives and price point in the low $40s that really created a buzz on the floor.
Late last year, Mehdiof was preemptively shopping to replace some of his aging sedans, and Volvo was again on his short list. His 56-vehicle fleet was already a mix of Mercedes, Lincoln, and Cadillac sedans, and he thought the newly debuted 2019 S90 would be a good fit for his lineup and client base. Mehdiof was put in touch with John Kendig of Volvo Fleet Sales, who offered him a demo S90.
“I liked the European styling of the S90 and the added luxury touches for our market,” he says. “I was also happy that Volvo matched other livery vehicle providers with the 150,000-mile powertrain warranty. It’s a reality of the mileage we drive in our industry.”
During the weeklong test drive, Mehdiof collected feedback from his chauffeur and fleet managers, as well as his valued long-time clients, some of whom were able to catch a ride in the demo.
“All of the feedback was overwhelmingly positive,” says Mehdiof. “I ordered two to give them a try.”
He says that the S90s quickly became among his most-requested vehicles, with some roadshow clients specifying that they wanted to use the Volvo exclusively. He was equally pleased that the Volvo seemed to be embraced by his diverse range of customers, from corporate travelers to entertainers to financial professionals. He even received the seal of approval from several of his NBA clients who raved about the vehicle’s ample head and leg room—high praise for players whose height is often an impediment to comfort in a traditional sedan. (The S90 has 37.8” head room and 40.4” leg room.)
Less than two weeks after adding the S90s to his fleet, he ordered two more.
“I was surprised by all of the positive feedback from so many different types of clients,” he says. “They really loved the car and thought it was comfortable. I had clients who specifically requested it. Even the chauffeurs like driving them.”
Working with Kendig, Mehdiof arranged to take delivery through his local Atlanta Volvo dealership, Dyer and Dyer Volvo, a transaction he called “superb.”
“They were very thorough and walked me through the features of the vehicle,” he says. ‘The general manager introduced me to the service manager and said, “This gentleman is on call for you any time you need or with any questions.’ That was another comfort to know that we would get full support if needed. So far we haven’t had any issues with the vehicles, but it was a nice gesture on their part.”
Mehdiof was already sold on Volvo’s styling for a livery application and the dealership’s commitment to keeping his vehicles well maintained and on the road, but he was also impressed by the number of features that would help him save money and keep his clients and chauffeurs safe.
“Volvo offers an extensive list of safety features, some of the best out there,” he says. It’s a list that includes such warnings such as the Blind Spot Information System (BLIS), Cross-Traffic Alert, Lane Keeping Assist, and Run-off Road Mitigation. Adaptive Cruise Control keeps a safe following distance between the sedan and other cars, automatically lowering the speed in heavy traffic—and there’s plenty of that in the ATL area.
But there was one that specifically piqued his interest: Collision Avoidance. The system helps to warn the driver to pedestrians, cyclists, and other vehicles that may cross the path of the vehicle without warning. The system alerts with either a visual or sound warning, or, in the most extreme case, automatically breaks if the driver isn’t able to respond fast enough.
“Rear-end fender-benders are one of the highest numbers of claims my chauffeurs have,” he says. “Having this type of safety feature will help us cut down on those claims with our insurance provider.”
Now that the Volvos have seen several months in operation, Mehdiof still has nothing but good things to say about the S90. In fact, he has just completed an order for an additional two S90s for a grand total of six. He again worked with Kendig on the purchase.
“Tony loves the product and runs a great organization,” says Kendig. “I’ve met several of his team, all longtime employees of the company who are very dedicated and love working for his business. Tony is a real gentleman who is not only well respected in Atlanta, but all over the country. It’s great working with him and I consider him a friend.”