COVID-19

For valet services, business in the time of COVID-19 is anything but 'as usual'

Valet parking companies have been presented with unique challenges during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Photo by CHUYN/Getty Images

As restaurants and shopping centers gradually open up and expand services, one less-often thought of aspect of the industry is having to adapt its entire business model. Valet parking companies cannot simply offer to-go services or limit the number of people shopping at any one time.

According to the American Public Transportation Association, traveling by public transportation was 10 times safer per mile than traveling by automobile in 2019. However, with the influx of coronavirus cases, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has shifted its guidance on using public transportation, even listing it as one of the riskier behaviors for transmission of the disease.

Data published by Apple Maps shows that requests for transit information continue to remain low while driving information is continuing to gain steam, indicating that more people are taking to the road instead of opting for public transportation as to keep their possibility of exposure to the virus to a minimum. This also means that they're busy looking for parking spots and remain dubious about valet parking.

Phoenix Parking Solutions owner Jeff Patterson sees both sides of the issue, "The normal valet process is the opposite of what should be happening during this pandemic. Right now, people are hesitant to valet their cars, and rightly so. A valet handing you a paper ticket in close proximity does not feel safe during COVID-19."

Patterson, whose business mainly consists of restaurant, country clubs, retail, and event clients, operates in the State of Georgia, in an industry that remains largely unregulated. He chose to educate himself on the dangers of COVID-19 specifically relating to the valet industry using resources provided by the National Parking Association. The organization, of which he is a member, offered sanitation seminars. He also collaborated with peers in the hospital valet space to replicate procedures that were designed by medical facilities.

"We've created a cashless, contactless solution for valet so our clients can still offer their guests a trustworthy first-class parking option," Patterson said.

According to a release, this is how Phoenix's protocol works:

  • As guests pull up to the valet stand, a Phoenix valet driver approaches the car wearing a mask and opens the door handle using a sanitizing wipe before backing away (a minimum of six feet) as guests exit the car.
  • Guests provide their cell phone number to the valet instead of receiving a paper ticket, and the valet enters the make, type and color of the car while a license plate reader scans the car's plate as an additional measure for tracking the vehicle.
  • Guests then enter their destination as the valet enters the car using a disposable sanitizing cloth to wipe down the interior handle, steering wheel and gear shift. The valet parks the car and wipes down the keys, sanitizes hands and throws the wipe in the trash. All sanitizing wipes used are non-scented, non-abrasive and will not harm vehicles.
  • Once guests are ready to leave, they will open the text message confirmation received from Phoenix upon arrival and click on the link to request their car and pay the valet fee and tip.
  • Guests must show this confirmation screen, which features the ticket number in large numbers on a green screen for those who have paid or a red screen for those who have not, to the masked valet. The large text and color-coded system allows valet drivers and guests to stand a safe distance from one another during this process. Guests then close their car door and have the option to receive a receipt and parking summary via email.
  • Guests also have the opportunity to review their experience when they pay. The reviews are internal and allow Phoenix to constantly monitor and improve services based on customer feedback.

In 2019, Patterson converted his company's parking locations to Oobeo, a cloud-based valet software platform that streamlines parking operations through web, mobile, and SMS technology. This system allows for a layer of protection and anonymity between valet workers and their clients. Additionally, Phoenix Mobile Solutions uses real-time driver monitoring via Samba Safety while managers audit properties seven days a week to oversee staff and protocols.

Mobile valet solutions are nothing new. Many luxury hotels and resorts as well as shopping plazas have switched from calling a valet to texting via a third party. The cleaning techniques, as well as the care taken to ensure products are safe for every vehicle and occupant, are the big step Patterson hopes will help restore the public's confidence in valet services.

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The Lincoln Nautilus has gotten a substantial interior upgrade as part of a mid-cycle refresh.

Photo courtesy of Lincoln Motor Company

Lincoln replaced the MKX with the Nautilus in 2019 and now, at the three-model year mark, the SUV is undergoing a refresh that aims to up the ante on the elegance inside the two-row midsize SUV.

"Nautilus plays a critical role in bringing new clients to the brand, especially those who are looking for the flexibility of a larger midsize SUV and appreciate the luxurious features and design that set Lincoln apart," said Michael Sprague, North America director, Lincoln. "The intent for the new Nautilus was refinement, rounding out our distinct lineup of SUVs – truly creating sanctuary."

2021 Lincoln Nautilus The Nautilus now offers the largest infotainment screen in its segment.Photo courtesy of Lincoln Motor Company

The new interior is designed to draw the eye side-to-side, emphasizing the wide proportions of the SUV. At the center of the dashboard is a 13.2-inch infotainment screen, the largest available across the Lincoln lineup and the largest in its segment. Below that are the SUV's piano key shifters, a feature carried over from the Lincoln Navigator.

The screen is the home to the SYNC 4 operating system, making the Nautilus the first Lincoln vehicle to adopt the tech. Phone is Key comes to the SUV as well, a technology Hyundai has also marketed this year that allows drivers to use their phones to start and drive the vehicle for a designated period of time, without the physical key present.

SYNC 4 will operate with a Lincoln-exclusive Constellation appearance theme that is inspired by the night sky. The scheme features blue tones with pops of orange.

The system allows for wireless communications and over-the-air updates. SiriusXM with 360L and a digital owner's manual are offered as well.

2021 Lincoln Nautilus

Photo courtesy of Lincoln Motor Company

Lincoln is giving buyers an additional Black Label themes to choose from for 2021 - Flight. It joins Chalet, Thoroughbred, and Gala in the Black Label theme lineup.

Buyers are able to get their 2021 Nautilus with the new Sandstone color family inside, featuring high color contrasts from light to dark. The Black Ebony interior returns for 2021, but with added Roast accents on the seats, doors, and console armrests.

Lincoln has refreshed the Nautilus's exterior color options as well. Asher Gray is a new choice and is available with the Monochromatic Package. Green Gem and Lincoln Flight Blue round out the new paint options.

Lincoln will continue to offer the Nautilus with a 335-horspower, twin-turbocharged 2.7-liter V6 or a standard 250-horsepower, turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine. Both engines are paired with an eight-speed automatic transmission.

Lincoln Co-Pilot360 comes standard on the SUV and Lincoln Co-Pilot360 Plus is available. The Plus version adds a 360-degree camera with front sensing system, adaptive cruise control with lane centering, distance alert, enhanced part assist, and evasive steering. This technology is the rebranded version of Ford's Co-Pilot360 tech.

Nautilus will continue to be built in Oakville, Ontario, for North America and will arrive in dealerships in early 2021.

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The Land Rover Discovery has been giving a thorough refresh for the 2021 model year

Photo courtesy of Land Rover
It's been three years since the latest-generation Land Rover Discovery made landfall in the U.S. In the years that have passed, Land Rover has expanded and modernized its lineup, including the new Velar and Defender models. Now, it's the Defenders turn.
The 2021 Land Rover Discovery gets new looks, an expanded lineup, and numerous tech upgrades as part of a proper mid-generation refresh. Land Rover will sell the model in four different options for buyers: 2.0L S, 2.0L S R-Dynamic, 3.0L S R-Dynamic, and 3.0L HSE R-Dynamic.

2021 Land Rover Discovery The rear of the vehicle features new LED taillights.Photo courtesy of Land Rover

The exterior of the Discovery remains much the same with body proportions bringing to mind historic Discovery styling. The SUV now comes with new signature LED headlights, sweeping front and rear turn signals, and body-color front fender vents. Land Rover has redesigned the front bumper to feature a new winder body-colored graphic and fresh side vents. At its rear, the 2021 Discovery has new signature LED lights which sit on either side of a gloss black panel that incorporates traditional “Discovery" script.

R-Dynamic models get unique Gloss Black and Shadow Atlas exterior accents on the outside and two-tone leather and contrast seat stitching inside.
Land Rover continues to offer the Discovery with two powertrains in the U.S. Models with the "2.0L" designation are powered by a 296-horsepower 2.0-liter turbo-four while "3.0L" SUVs have a 355-horsepower, turbocharged 3.0-liter inline six-cylinder engine under the hood.
The Discovery has an 8,200-pound maximum towing capacity and comes with Advanced Tow Assist.

2021 Land Rover Discovery The Discover can tow over 8,000 pounds.Photo courtesy of Land Rover

Designers have given the Discovery a new center console, which houses an 11.4-inch high-definition infotainment touch's creek that runs the company's well-organized Pivi Pro operating system. That area also houses a new shifter that offers a more pleasing tactile experience. Apple CarPlay is standard and Android Auto is available.

In front of the driver sits a new four-spoke steering wheel with hidden-until-lit switches, similar to what is on the Evoque and Velar. Beyond the steering wheel is a 12.3-inch interactive driver display that provides vital vehicles operations information and can display full-screen 3D navigation when requested. The dials displayed on the screen are configurable. A head-up display is available and over-the-air updates are possible.
The entire cabin benefits from Land Rover's new Cabin Air Ionization technology that scans incoming air, measures its quality and uses filters to adequately reduce fine particulates in the Discovery's cabin.

2021 Land Rover Discovery 2021 Land Rover Discovery R-Dynamic models feature two-tone leather interiors.Photo courtesy of Land Rover

Land Rover Click and Go tablet holders are incorporated into the Discovery's first row seatbacks. The system uses USB-A charging sockets and the 4G LTE Wi-Fi hot spot within in the vehicle to deliver entertaining content to passengers.

A hand-free liftgate is a viable. To ease in configuring cargo space, the Discovery's infotainment screen offers fold command technology for rear seats. Second-row seats have been redesigned to offer enhanced comfort. That row also gets increased air flow from the SUV's ventilation system.
Buyers can get their Discovery with the second-generation Activity Key, which features touchscreen controls, a digital watch, and can lock, unlock, and start the vehicle as well as serve as a traditional fob.

2021 Land Rover Discovery The model now has Land Rover's Pivi Pro infotainment system.Photo courtesy of Land Rover

Pricing for the 2021 Land Rover Discovery starts at $53,900 for the 2.0L S base model. The 2.0L S R-Dynamic starts at $56,400. Bumping up to the 3.0L S R-Dynamic moves the price tag to $61,900 while the top-tier HSE R-Dynamic comes in at $68,900.

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