As COVID-19 continues to cause ripple effects throughout the U.S. economy, the outlook for the specialty vehicle segment of the funeral industry remains somewhat mixed. In looking at the entire landscape, the industry has many challenges, but great opportunities at the same time. Businesses, much like consumers, are feeling the effects of COVID-19 in a variety of ways. The uncertainty of the virus has presumably put a lid on demand in the short term, but increased optimism about the decline of the pandemic as well as a potential vaccine on the horizon will likely lift that demand over the coming months. For businesses, their spending and budgeting is a direct correlation to consumer demand. And as we all know, the funeral industry is affected by consumer spending as much as any other industry.

The effect of COVID-19 has been somewhat muted on the side of the manufacturers and suppliers, but not completely non-existent. While demand seems to be flat for the most part, the supply chain disruption and governmental mitigation efforts are the most noticeable changes. “Our business has been effected by COVID-19,” says Courtney Wagers, Marketing Manager for Eagle & Federal Coach Company. “The most substantial effect is specifically related to the sale and usage of Limousines. With the social distancing requirements and limited attendance allowance at funerals, we have seen Funeral Directors restricted in the usage of their limousines.”

In discussing the supply chain disruption, Steve Kellerman, Sales Manager of Platinum Coach, has also felt the effects. “Our biggest retraction has been our suppliers,” implies Steve. “Trying to get chassis and parts have been slightly difficult. Our sales have been strong since we have been the only ones delivering the new XT5. So, our biggest challenge is to have everything we need to build and deliver the new cars.”

While COVID-19 is on everyone’s mind, most suppliers of specialty vehicles seem to think that the sales outlook will be positive. Although, there are other challenges that will make the segment challenging. One of those suppliers echoing this sentiment is Platinum Funeral Coach’s Steve Kellerman. “2020 looks to be a much better year than expected,” says Steve. “Although there have been some setbacks with COVID-19 impacting chassis, vendors, and daily operating safety guidelines. This is also a body style change year with Cadillac, so all the manufacturers have to re-tool the new Cadillac XT5, and possibly other chassis.” Steve continues, “Fortunately for Platinum Funeral Coach, we planned and prepared much faster than the other manufacturers. We have been delivering the ALL-NEW 2020 XT5 since early Spring. Sales and production have stayed strong, and we haven’t had to lay off one employee this year.”

Other suppliers have repeated a similar feeling of optimism. “We are optimistic that the economic environment for the demand of specialty vehicles in 2020 will be secure,” comments Courtney Wagers of Eagle & Federal Coach Company. She continues by saying, “With the exhaustion of the XTS chassis and a new platform introduction, we believe Funeral Directors will be eager to purchase and upgrade their fleet. With the status of the industry it is hard to predict whether there will be growth or retraction, however, we are sure that by providing a new, reliable platform for specialty vehicles we will be able to generate a sense of eagerness and excitement within the industry.”

So as the divergence between predicted growth and trepidation caused by potential supply chain disruptions is going to impact how suppliers see the industry, the end result will come from demand that may be generated from replacement cycles of a product that has a definitive and measurable lifespan.

Some suppliers view an upgrade cycle coming in the year ahead. Dustin Campbell, the Director of Product Development for Springfield Commercial Group predicts this may be the case. “With Cadillac and Lincoln ending their livery programs indefinitely, this is a hard question to answer. I would expect to see the growth slow down assuming traditional builders will run out of 2019 chassis and have to come up with competitive warranties for non-livery program cars,” says Dustin. “It will be a transitional period for anyone who is building on a Cadillac or Lincoln chassis. We have seen this several times in the limousine industry over the last 10 years or so.” Dustin ends by saying, “With livery programs at an indefinite halt. I would expect to see buyers hold out hope for as long as they can hoping these programs come back while traditional manufacturers scramble to offer better warranties, leasing options and competitive pricing.”

“I think the industry growth will be a little flat overall for 2020,” echoes Steve Kellerman of Platinum Funeral Group. “The market has been getting flooded with the last model XTS chassis, so customers have been limited of what they can purchase in the 2020 lineup. So, they might wait for the 2021.”

As usual, many things can contribute to growth in an industry, even during times of economic uncertainty. Innovation in the overall automotive industry continues to be a hallmark of the American built products. There are 3 three basic types of innovation in business – product innovation, process innovation, and business model innovation. All 3 lead to improved industry performance and a better product for the consumer.

In most instances, the need for improved products and innovation will lead to new partnerships and relationships among suppliers. Even without mergers and acquisitions, the ability to see what competitors develop causes a constant desire to innovate.

A byproduct of innovation is productivity improvement. Productivity improvement will inevitably lead to reduced costs by the manufacturer, and those reductions should trickle down to the consumer of those products. Innovation is a key dynamic in fostering competitiveness among suppliers, thus pushing them to further innovate and increase the industry’s overall product offerings. Innovation contributes to the turnover or replacement cycle, as funeral homes need to always have the latest and best innovation in product offerings, including specialty vehicles.

Innovation is often a closely held secret and often announced prior to the launching of new products. Whether it is due to COVID-19, or because of the uncertain economic environment in the near-term future, that seems to be the prevailing thought for 2021.
In discussing innovation, most suppliers see similar changes on the horizon. As Steve Kellerman says, “All manufacturers are in the same predicament. We all have to re-tool cars for the body style change that occurred in 2020. Our company has been extremely successful at retooling this new chassis and have many plans for new or updated models in 2021.”

Courtney Wagers of Eagle & Federal Coach companies repeats a similar outlook, “The most significant design innovations come from the change in chassis platform. The XTS has been the Cadillac Hearse and Limousine platform for nearly 7 years; the upgraded platform is much needed in the industry.” She continues, “While the Hearse product will remain mostly the same for all Coachbuilders, we do see a significant change in the design of the limousine. While the XTS was a sedan chassis, the XT5 platform is a larger – more SUV type platform, including changes such as a hatch door for the rear cargo.”

Technology has a major impact on of our lives. Our daily use of technology is seen in every aspect of what we do, from the televisions we watch, to the phones we use, and the vehicles we drive. This is important in the specialty vehicle market as well. However, it seems to be customer service that matter most. “While technology is ever changing, we find the most significance in the durability and usage of the vehicle, says Courtney Wagers. “The OnStar systems and CUE screens are great features in the Hearses and Limousines, however, it’s more important to us that the vehicle helps serve the Funeral Directors as best as possible. Vehicle features such as: the ability to showcase the casket with rear compartment glass, increased rear interior lighting, as well as a durable church truck compartment are more significant to us than upgraded technology.”

Technology is always evolving and helps promote and even build our products,” says Steve Kellerman. “But, for the most part, most customers want to kick the tires of the car before they make a purchase. And, we build cars the old-fashioned way, by hand. Technology and computers are great, but from our experience when tooling a vehicle, it is much more cost efficient to do what we have always done.”

The takeaway is the future for specialty vehicles is optimistic but has its challenges. Innovation, technology, and COVID-19 will all have an impact in the coming year, making 2021 a year of change. Dustin Campbell says it best, “I feel that it’s important for funeral industry professionals to show families they really care and offer a state-of-the art-service. I also feel that offering families the ability to escort their loved one to their final resting place in the same car is a great avenue of service enhancement. This can be achieved with our combination limo/hearse. It also eliminates a smaller firm’s need for multiple cars and maintenance costs.”

As Steven Covey once said, “If there’s one thing that’s certain in business, it’s uncertainty.” But one thing is always a constant. The constant is the American drive and ingenuity in everything we do, and that uncertainty will most certainly bring out our best. As we move into 2021, the American spirit will prevail as always it always does! FBA


 

Springfield Coach has over 50 years’ experience in the manufacturing and financial services industries. We are committed to delivering exactly what the chauffeured transportation community and hearse requests. Whether you are an established livery service provider, Funeral Director or are brand new to the industry. We will deliver a superbly crafted limousine/hearse that guarantees your clients a truly elegant experience, in a safe and comfortable environment. Each of SCG craftsmen has an average of over ten years in the coach manufacturing industry. Their artistry and skill are rivaled only by their dedication to their profession. Our sales & management teams are committed to providing you with the very best experience possible, not only after you purchase your Limousine/Hearse, but during the process, as well. LimoLand.com challenges you to compare our quality and our value to any other coach builder in the business. We believe that once you’ve seen for yourself, you’ll agree that… ‘Everything Else is Just a Ride!’

We Manufacture Limousine, Limo Bus, SUV limousines, Sprinters and all executive Shuttle types. New Limos for sale here. Buy straight from the manufacture.

Springfield Coach Group operates from a 50,000 square foot manufacturing facility. Springfield Coach Group is able to build custom orders more efficiently than most of our competitors. With our knowledge and continued investment in technology we are able to offer our clientele a prestigious product. We follow strict procedures and guidelines to ensure every new limo is built to the highest standards.

Springfield Coach Group
www.limoland.com
(417) 866-6565


 

Eagle Coach Company & Federal Coach Company are dedicated to producing the highest quality professional vehicles to reflect the image of Funeral Home’s that use them. Combining attractive styling and reliable construction with the most sought-after features, our specialty vehicles are some of the best-selling models in America.

Eagle Coach & Federal Coach continue to work with the approved Cadillac Master Coachbuilder XTS Chassis, with plans to release an XT5 line-up of Funeral vehicles near the end of the year. The new line-up will look similar to the models offered today including: Eagle offerings of the Echelon, Kingsley and Kensington models. Federal Coach will offer the Renaissance, Heritage, and Kensington models. While the chassis’ have changed, the durability and elegance our models offer will remain the same. With a larger rear compartment and increased lighting, our XT5 Funeral Hearses will provide your Funeral Home with the most functional vehicles in the industry.

Although the XT5 Limousine is not available until early next year, Eagle Coach & Federal Coach are able to provide your Funeral Home with an XTS Limousine supported with Cadillac Warranty. While the XTS offers two different stretch points, the XT5 Limousine will only be offered at one stretch length. Eagle Coach & Federal Coach provide the only limousine in the industry that features Powered Center Windows, 3-point Seatbelt in the Center Seat and Standard OnStar Navigation.

For over 70 years combined, Eagle Coach & Federal Coach have served the Funeral industry with the transportation needs the Funeral Homes require. Although the chassis is changing, our dedication to you and the families’ you serve remains the same.

Eagle & Federal Coach Company
www.svgvehicles.com
[email protected]
800.236.3801


 

Platinum Funeral Coach is a family owned and operated Manufacturer located in Amelia, Ohio. We specialize in building Cadillac hearse and limousines. We offer several different models of hearse including our Phoenix, Phoenix-R, Phoenix-C, MasterCoach, and our specialty flower car, the Cortege. Our manufacturing and quality process is modeled after the philosophy of Mike Kellerman, a true pioneer in innovation, design, and production of what is now the Kellerman Family of Professional Vehicles. We are one family with 3 business offerings….Platinum Funeral Coach, MK Coach, and K2 Vehicles.

There are products that are built by necessity. Then there are others that are built from abundance. Then there is the final product, one that is built from skill and heart specifically for one person, one place, one job. This is one of those products. Our cars are built by hand, individually, specifically for you.

Platinum Funeral Coach may be a new name to the industry, but our experience started in 1985. Joe Kellerman, the CEO of Platinum, was just 14 years old when he started washing and detailing hearses for his uncle Mike Kellerman. Our company is centered on one main principal, a principal Joe learned from his uncle: the value of family. Joe decided to carry on that same idea in his own business. The majority of our employees are family members, and the other half we consider family.

At Platinum Funeral Coach, we do things differently – not only do we care about quality – we deliver quality. We strive to build a product we are truly proud of, one that is a tool and aide to those who use it. At Platinum Funeral Coach, we do things our way…the Kellerman way…where excellence is the goal and family is the inspiration.

Platinum Funeral Coach
www.platinumfuneralcoach.com
[email protected]
513.752.0734