From the moment you enter the baggage claim area at Los Angeles International Airport and see the tall woman in a dark business suit holding the sign with your name on it, you know this car service is going to be different. Outside, she leads you to a black Toyota Prius with tinted windows and gray leather seats -- not your typical limo.
The woman is Y. Fray, founder and owner of ECOLIMO. Fray launched the Los Angeles-based company in 2004, after a successful two-decade career as a chauffeur. Her fleet now includes four Prius hybrid sedans, two natural gas-burning Chevy Suburbans, and a Ford Excursion that runs on 100 percent vegetable oil.
Demand for the cars is overwhelming, Fray says. The switch to low-emissions vehicles has proved to be an asset in the eyes of her customers, especially in a city like Los Angeles, where green cars are cool and movie stars zoom up and down Sunset Boulevard in their Priuses.
"I asked passengers a simple question," she explains. "'If another type of car came to pick you up to go to the airport, and it was not a Town Car or DeVille or Mercedes but was just as nicely appointed and professionally driven, as well as smaller and eco-friendly...would you get in? Or, more important, would you order the car again?' Everyone said yes."
ECOLIMO is still a small business operating out of a single city, but Fray fields a steady stream of calls from people eager to license the name for use in other locations. "We're currently in negotiations for Washington, D.C., Phoenix, and Miami," Fray says. "We have our sights on San Francisco and New York." A similar service, OZOcar, started with a fleet of Toyota Priuses in New York City last year.
-- Jason Elliott