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Arrive In Style

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Sometimes, you just need to hire wheels that make a statement. At an industrialist's daughter's wedding for instance, where everybody is coming in a Mercedes S Class, a BMW 7 or a Bentley Continental, how do you still get noticed while arriving at the venue? Simple — leave your car at home and instead hire a stretch limousine. You will surely get the VIP treatment when you step out of the car.

Or consider this. You have had to fly out for the final negotiation on the merger. You are staying at the best hotel but all their luxury cars are booked and the best that they can offer you is a Toyota Camry or a Honda Accord. What do you do? To hold an upper hand in the negotiation, you desperately need a Mercedes S class at least. Well, never fear, there are car rental companies that will step in and help you out. Here's the basics of hiring the right set of wheels to fit the occasion.

The Stretch Limo
Stretch limos — luxury cars with specially lengthened wheel bases and bodies — are great for special occasions such as arriving at a wedding or landing up at a film premiere.

But stretch limos are impractical for daily use (given the potholes, ill-constructed speed breakers, the unruly traffic and the parking squeeze). So it makes sense to hire one as and when the occasion demands. The limousines themselves come in various stretches — from those that have been stretched a mere 3 ft to those that have been pulled by 12 ft. Most come with enough goodies packed in — LCD screens, home theatres, bars, hot plates, etc.

Limousine Auto Care is one company that specialise in stretch limousines. "We provide limousine services for parties, airport transfer, weddings, travel activities, et al. The trend of hiring stretch limousines is catching up fast in India. The overall category is growing and people are willing to spend more on luxury items," says Gurjit Singh, director, Limousine Auto Care and president of Limousine Association of India. The company rents out 57 stretch limousines, which include stretch BMWs, Hummers and Lincoln Continentals. Their clientele includes the who's who of the film fraternity and political leaders such as Digvijay Singh and L.K. Advani.

FUN TIME: The bar of a stretch Hummer; the interior of a stretch BMW (top); cushion couch (left)

The charges typically depend on the car however. It starts from Rs 15,000 for a period of 8 hours and a distance of 80 km.

Even within stretch limos, there is a hierarchy. For a price, the Mann Tourist Auto Service will not only provide you with an ultra luxurious Chrysler stretch limo, but with an escort car to go with it. "We imported the Chrysler from the US — a 30-ft-long car. For safety measures, we provide escort service to our customers who hire the Chrysler," says Parmjeet Mann, director at Mann Tourist Transport Service. The package costs Rs 75,000 for 8-10 hours for a distance of 100-110 km. The company plans to launch two more — a stretch Bentley or a Chrysler in a couple of months.

Just Luxury Cars
For business purposes — as opposed to going to a party — the stretch limo is quite useless. No one thinks you are making a statement if you arrive in one, unless you are a rap star from the US touring the country. Most businessmen prefer to make a more subtle statement by getting down from a Mercedes, a BMW, an Audi or a Jaguar. If you want to be slightly offbeat, you could choose an Aston Martin. If you want to make an overt statement, go for a Rolls-Royce. The rentals of these cars start from Rs 15,000 for the exotic category (think Aston Martin Volante), Rs 20,000 for sports (Porsche or Ferrari) and Rs 30,000 for the vintage (Packard) for a day.

Most businessmen though stick to the more "normal" means of transportation — the Mercedes S 500, which starts from Rs 18,000 for 80 km and 8 hours. A Mercedes S 350 would cost Rs 12,000 and a BMW-7 Series around Rs 9,000 for the same period.

"We started a limousine point-to-point service with premium and luxury cars such as the Toyota Camry, Toyota Altis, and Mercedes E and S Class," says Sakshi Vij, head of marketing at Carzonrent India. The service is mostly targetted at the business executives and premium travellers.

Limousine Wagon
If you are planning to take your family to a nearby city, and find both the above options impractical, then a limousine wagon would be just right for you. These are station wagons which are also limousines. They have better leg space and road clearance. More importantly, they are just right with the kind of entertainment equipment that a band of friends or your children will require for the journey. Best thing is that you can rent a security officer on board as part of the service.

"We want to ensure that our customer's fun-filled experience rolls out smoothly," says Sahdev Goil, director at Presidential Wheels, which rents out Limousine wagons.

The "funkwagon" is well equipped with items such as state-of-the-art music system, ice-box and special ambient lighting. For corporate clients, it has extra space for luggage, business magazines, newspapers, wi-fi connectivity, DVD-VCD and a 26-inch monitor for a business meeting. And all these come at Rs 12,500 for 8 hours and 110 km. With 5-6 people on board, a limousine wagon could be hired for a trip from Delhi to Agra, Chandigarh, Jaipur at Rs 36 per km.

(This story was published in Businessworld Issue Dated 29-08-2011)