Ritzy travel limousines made from Ford Transits are a fun, safe and comfortable way to travel throughout the country. By Ruben Luong. Photos by HTH Corporation.
Reconverted from the 16-seat Ford Transit vans that are ubiquitous to Vietnam, HTH corporation’s luxury limousine welcomes me inside with the unmistakable scent of new car.
In the meeting saloon consisting of four reclining and retractable seats, a private screen and soundproof glass partition, HTH CEO Phong Van Thong then shamelessly blasts Yanni from the limousine’s bass sound system.
We bob our heads to the beat and Thong shifts hidden compartments and presses buttons to reveal a foldable table and flat-screen television, all made sexier under the ritz of blue and purple LED rain lights above.
This glam is mostly reserved by local tourism companies and commercial guests like celebrities, golf players, traders and VIP guests of multinational companies, but anyone can rent HTH’s limousine services for family or friends to go on the road at reasonable prices.
Price is based on services, such as VND 700,000-2 million for a one-day trip to Vung Tau. It can also be based on the particular tour program. For example, a tour to Mui Ne could cost VND 10,000 per kilometre.
“From past experience in other countries, we realised the vehicles in Vietnam are very low-quality in terms of comfort and convenience,” says Thong, who worked an eight-year stint at Ford Vietnam. “But if we import limousines, it could cost over VND 10 billion. That’s why we have to think about how to modify and innovate the cars in Vietnam but also not have their services be expensive.”
HTH refurbishes Ford Transits made in Vietnam in its factory in District 8, costing around VND 1.2 billion in total to produce. They are converted into 10-seat vans (three up front, seven in the back) to provide more space and comfort. To keep a competitive edge, upgrades and modifications are made by HTH’s technical design team every six months.
The current limos make up the third generation of the vehicles and are equipped with standard features like seats that recline to 170-degree flatbeds, 220-voltage power outlets, high-speed wifi and a mini cool bar stocked with a decanter and champagne glasses.
But the fourth generation is set to release soon. One modification features a more durable, retractable flatscreen television installed on the ceiling of the van. This is an improvement from a flatscreen television behind the minibar that would often jam as it automatically rose from the central unit.
Enhancements like this earned HTH Supplier of the Year by Southeast Asian tour company Asian Trails last year. Thong says HTH’s fleet of forty drivers are also rigorously trained and tested in defensive driving using international auditing and standards from leading tourism company KUONI in Switzerland.
As they continue to provide more quality and innovation, HTH now has plans to provide its limos and services for popular chauffeur service application Uber, which made a welcome debut in the city last month. Businessesmen will be able to request HTH drivers through the Uber app on their smart phones.
Downtown sports pub Game On on Ho Tung Mau Street is also one client that rents HTH’s limos to provide round-trip van transportation from Ho Chi Minh City to Vung Tau, making it a perfect party van for weekend getaways.
“It’s good for everyone because we enjoy our own privacy. We have friends. We gossip. We have children who love the television monitor,” Thong says. “It’s all very comfortable.”