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Luxury cars fly regularly

By control on March 19, 2013

Katie Ould makes cars fly.

Ould, key account manager for automotive at U.K.-based freight forwarding company Bellville Rodair, deals in shipping high-end cars by air.

Airfreight is used mostly for luxury vehicles, she says. Ould’s accounts are with Bentley, McLaren, Jaguar, Lotus and Rolls-Royce.

“They all will use airfreight specifically for new model launch or for new dealers opening up or perhaps for motor shows,” she says. “They all airfreight regularly.”

High-end car manufacturers airfreight 7 to 10 percent of their vehicles, Ould says.

Russell Cason, Delta Air Lines spokesperson, names cars that Delta recently shipped: a Porsche, a Lamborghini, an Audi A4 and a Ford Focus. Cason says most cars Delta deals with come from Europe to the U.S.

“They tend to be more high-end,” Cason says. “But they actually run across the gambit.”

Cars are a fairly new product for Delta, he says. The airline has recently been approved operationally for Moscow and plans to expand into Asia.

Ould names Cargolux (pictured above) as an airline that ships a large number of cars.

“Cargolux ships a range of cars like prototypes for cold or hot weather tests or racing cars,” Thomas Hempel, assistant manager of press relations at Cargolux, writes in an email. “Valuable collector cars, such as classic cars, are also often shipped on CV flights. We don't ship common vehicles that are distributed from their factories. That is mainly done by ship, which can offer the volume and bulk to carry thousands of cars.”

Ould estimates that shipping a car by boat costs US$3,000, while shipping by air costs at least five times more at US$15,000 to $18,000. Most of the time, a manufacturer or dealership covers these costs.

Ould, Cason and Hempel say manufacturers will choose airfreight because of its speed compared to shipping by boat.

“It’s time-sensitive,” Cason says. “They need to get a vehicle quickly to a location. Often times it could be, for example, for a dealer or it could be for an auto show or usually demonstration things. We do a lot of race cars, for example.”

Hempel writes that companies want to keep prototypes of cars away from the public eye.

“Often prototypes are still secret and the manufacturers prefer to have them in public for the shortest necessary time only,” he writes.

Airlines say they take great care in shipping cars. Cargolux uses special car racks that hold two cars, one above the other, Hempel writes. Delta wraps its cars in plastic to prevent damage to the finish and secures them by chain on a specialized pallet. The pallet itself is then secured on the aircraft, Cason says.

The cars have a small amount of gasoline in them along with batteries, but Cason says Delta limits the amount of gas that cars contain.

“They are considered dangerous goods for that very reason,” he says.

Ould says certain destinations, especially the Middle East, prefer to receive cars by air.

“In Britain, we’re very, very happy to put a deposit on a car, and we’re quite happy to wait three or six months for it, particularly if it’s one we’ve kind of put special wheels on and special tread and that kind of thing. But I think other countries, other regions are not so willing to wait,” she explains. “It’s funny. I think it’s more down to the people rather than necessarily the cars.”

As for whether the airfreighting of cars has taken a hit because of the economy, Ould says this isn’t the case. What have changed are the contributing factors to why a car is airfreighted.

“Before, cars used to be airfreighted maybe for special events. But I think nowadays, I think it’s that much harder to sell a car,” she says. “In terms of number of cars that are airfreighted, I think it’s been fairly constant for the last few years.”