NEW YORK – Ford’s luxury brand Lincoln is testing a new chauffeur service for customers.

Lincoln Chauffeur started in Miami and will expand to San Diego. It is billed as an app-enabled membership service that provides clients with screened and trained drivers upon request.

Customers pay an hourly rate for employees of contracted third-party company Red Hat to drive them in their Lincolns or drive in the cars alone. The latter’s duties would include running errands and taking a vehicle home after dropping the owner off at the airport.

The going rate is $30 an hour, but that’s subject to adjustment as the program develops, says Kumar Galhotra, Lincoln’s president. He notes the first eight hours are free as an introductory offer.

Lincoln launches the service following market research into potential interest and uses. Asked by WardsAuto how much the research indicates the chauffeurs might serve as designated drivers for people who have been drinking, Galhotra responds, “A lot.”

The service aims to enhance the experience of owning a Lincoln.

Similarly, Lincoln in Dallas and Houston is experimenting with an initiative that offers test drives of vehicles taken to a prospective buyer’s home or place of work.

The brand also offers a valet pickup and delivery of vehicles destined to a dealership for service work.

“A customer can be at home, work or a child’s baseball game, and the valet will drop off a loaner car and take the owner’s car to the dealership,” Ford CEO Mark Fields says at the unveiling here of the all-new ’18 Lincoln Navigator fullsize SUV.   

In another extra-effort initiative, Lincoln dealership personnel make house calls to show customers samples of the brand’s Black Label collection of upscale interior packages.

The staffers carry demonstration cases holding colorful metal tubes containing rolled-up swaths of high-end materials, such as Alcantara suede and Eagle Ottawa leather. The kit includes a computer tablet so presentations can go deep digitally.

sfinlay@wardsauto.com