There’s a powerful new business tool being deployed by savvy executives: the custom luxury van. These sleek vehicles bear no resemblance to any van you’ve ever seen. They’re more like private jets with four wheels instead of wings. And they’re so luxurious and technology-laden inside, it would come as no surprise to see a British secret agent step out wearing a suit from Savile Row.
Outside, it presents a sleek, stylish appearance befitting the lifestyle of the busy executive. Inside, there’s leather everywhere, much of it double-stitched. The beautifully lustrous wood veneer that trims the interior is fitted to perfection, displaying a level of craftsmanship that’s a source of deep pride for Midwest Automotive Designs, a premier Mercedes-Benz Sprinter van upfitter based in Elkhart, Indiana. It’s a part of the country that once produced some of the grandest touring cars ever made – with names like Auburn, Cord, Marmon and, of course, the legendary Duesenberg. “Our custom luxury vans really do evoke that classic sense of style and elegance,” says Midwest’s President, Tim Gray. “But what astonishes people is the level of technology we’re now able to surround them with.” So who is the typical customer? “The A-Type business exec,” says Gray, whose company has been a leader in the luxury conversion van industry for well over a decade. And demand has never been more brisk, thanks to the frenetic pace of modern-day business and the need to stay plugged in during travel times. Midwest Automotive Designs typically caters to business execs who travel regionally, where it makes sense to drive rather than fly. “But they still want to go first-class,” Gray says emphatically. Look inside one of Midwest’s latest creations, and there’s no hint of coach-class anywhere. Midwest starts with the best-engineered van in the world – the Mercedes-Benz Sprinter Van – and design development goes from there. How far they go is up to each individual customer. The designers, craftsmen and technical wizards of Midwest can create virtually anything imaginable. A mobile command center with a rear-facing widescreen TV that takes over tailgate parties? Check. A plush shuttle that also accommodates weekend getaways? You bet. It’s a level of luxury and technology that makes it clear why the business van is gaining an avid following. Wade Martin, a Midwest customer since 2009, is now on his fourth van – each more customized to his needs than its predecessor. A financial industry executive on the U.S. East Coast, he says his van (based on Midwest’s Business Executive model) lets him find the right work/life balance. “If you look at it in terms of billable hours, hiring a driver and traveling in this kind of office-on-wheels is the smartest thing you can do,” Martin says. “Every hour I’m in transit is now a productive hour. And I’m not having to work when I get home. I’m relaxed, and I spend more time with my family.” Midwest installed Martin’s latest luxury Sprinter van with 4G LTE WiFi technology, wider HD flat screens, a bigger fridge and coat hooks so he can hang up his suit. “In the end,” notes Midwest’s Gray, “the one thing busy execs can’t buy more of is time. But with a Mercedes Sprinter van converted to meet their needs, and crafted to our standards, they can make the most of every hour of their day. People think it’s a luxury. But for our customers, it’s really more of a necessity. ”