By: San Antonio Business Journal | Credit: https://www.bizjournals.com/sanantonio/stories/2005/11/28/smallb1.html
With 19 other companies in the world doing the same thing you do, how do you win contracts with the likes of singer Mariah Cary, the King of Thailand and the producers of the television show “The West Wing?”
You stand apart from the pack. At least, that’s what San Antonio’s own LCW Automotive Corp. does.
LCW manufactures limousines, adding 6 to 140 inches of length to the vehicles. With more than 40 years of automotive experience, the company maintains one of the highest ratings in the industry for safety, quality and innovation. It is one of the original Ford Quality Vehicle Manufactures (QVM) and a member of the Cadillac Master Coach (CMC) Builder Team.
“We have a tremendous amount of patent-pending technologies that has made us a significant part of the limousine manufacturing industry,” CEO Kenneth Boyar says.
With revenues around $10 million per year, they must be doing something right.
Beyond the huge vehicles in Boyar’s show room on Fredericksburg Road is a wall of awards, like “Master Coach Builder: Recognizing Achievement of Quality, Professionalism, and Commitment to Customer Service.”
Boyar clarifies that the plaques are more representative of evaluations by Lincoln and Cadillac, than awards, but signify that the company is doing a good job.
“We have certain features that can’t be simulated,” Boyar says.
In the 1980s, LCW was the first to produce the long doors, as well as the 6-inch wider-body Lincoln with a distinctive raised roof design.
“Our vehicles are lighter, stronger and better insulated,” Boyar says. “The insulation and air conditioning we do here in South Texas is probably the best in the industry.”
Boyar’s business philosophy of “Go the extra mile and give our customer a little more than they expect,” applies to his employees, too.
“I’m very proud to say we run one of the cleanest, safest factories in the world,” Boyar says.
This includes a physician’s office in the factory, to care for the employees, their wives, children and parents. “He’s a good business man,” says Jerry Loftus, general counsel for the QVM, CMC Vehicles Manufacturers Association.
After knowing Boyar for 18 years, he says, “What stands out is his honesty.”
The early years
Founded in 1964 in New York by Brooklyn-born Kenneth Boyar, LCW is family owned by Boyar and two sons: Adam, responsible for purchasing, and Todd, responsible for sales and marketing.
But Boyar’s love of cars started earlier, in 1946, when his Russian-immigrant grandfather took the then 5-year-old Boyar for rides in a 1932 Pontiac.
“He let me sit on his lap and steer,” remembers Boyar.
Boyar’s dad opened an automotive key shop in 1938, and worked that business until he retired in 1970.
“That’s where I apprenticed in the ’50s,” Boyar remembers.
The teenaged Boyar raced the quarter mile drag-strips in his white ’59 Chevrolet Impala, with baby blue interior.
“Love of the automobile has been under my nails forever,” Boyar says. “I’ve been in car racing, customizing, auto glass, auto locks and chassis work.”
At just 23, the newly graduated business major bought into a previously unsuccessful body shop, Al’s Collision Works. He became sole owner and turned it around in only two years, giving it a new name: Auto Body Concepts. There, he immersed himself in all aspects of auto repair and restoration.
In 1969 on a trip to Laredo, Boyar’s future mother-in-law told him of a fellow in town “who does what you do.” She introduced Boyar to Carlos Allen, and soon the two were doing business together. Allen’s limousine factory, Allen Coach Works, operated in Nuevo Laredo, Mexico. Boyar handled sales and marketing tasks from New York and continued to operate Auto Body Concepts.
As Boyar added to his expertise of customizing, his own company grew. Hooking up with a friend, Boyar took on a new name in 1973, MacGregor Custom Coach.
When he began manufacturing 36- and 46-inch longer stretch limousines, he again changed his company’s name, this time to American Pullman.
Finally, Allen convinced Boyar to join his operation. So Boyar closed American Pullman and opened APC Sales Corp. to market the limousines he and Allen built under Allen Coachworks. Boyar also opened a limousine maintenance facility in the New York area, that continues to this day.
When Allen died in the early ’90s, Boyar took over the Mexican- based factory. He and his wife moved to Laredo in 1994, re-naming the company Laredo Coach Works, and still later, shortened to LCW Automotive Corp.
By 2000, the administrative sales and service office moved to San Antonio, the town offering Boyar the best opportunities.
With his two sons into the business now, Boyar claims he will retire “maybe in the next 10 years.” We’ll see. Meanwhile, He plans to grow the company in San Antonio.
“We’re planning to build our special projects here to leave more room for the manufacturing of standard products in Nuevo Laredo,” Boyar says.
A limousine is not an ordinary cut-stretch-and-paste car to begin with. Features, like the suspension, have been altered to allow for the longer body, which must be gutted first. The sides are reinforced and safety-padded, before the interior is re-built.
Many include interesting features, including one created with an electronic seat that turns into a bed for a nap.
“Our newest model is our G-4, which simulates the interior of an aircraft,” says Boyar. “And we built another for a limousine show in Atlantic City with a slot machine in it. We call it ‘The Gambler.'”
Boyar has stretched beyond the industry standard on color, as well. A limo designed for the King of Thailand sports a mustard-yellow exterior with Persian rugs inside.
“We built a car for the UK called the ‘Blue Crush.’ It’s a two-toned blue interior with a glistening blue accent,” Boyar says. “We just delivered a fire engine red vehicle and a pink inside-and-outside limousine for the Pink Lady Limousines Co. in Austin. It’s a signature series type vehicle.”
Jay Fanfalone, Cadillac Professional Vehicle’s program manager, has known Boyar for more than 10 years, as one of the CMC builders. “Ken sincerely welcomes customers, friends and strangers with absolute open arms, in order to provide a product or service because he truly cares,” says Fanfalone.
“The automotive industry can be rough and tumble at times,” Fanalone says. “Sometimes there is conflict and confrontation, yet Ken always responds in a gracious and professional fashion. I can’t speak highly enough of Ken Boyar. I wish I were related to him to ensure we’ll always be in contact.”