Automotive News EuropeSome markets like the USA and the Netherlands are moving toward separate Land Rover Centres that emphasize a human connection between the company and its customers.
These Centres cost $1 million-$2 million each in investment. Staff go through rigorous training in off-road driving as well as sales methods.
'We want to build up a rapport with customers,' said Andy Hurst, Land Rover brand manager. 'We want to be on a first-name basis with them.'
Centre employees who have been on an off-road adventure together share their knowledge and enthusiasm with customers. 'It's infectious,' said Hurst.
The idea started in the USA, where dealers were organizing trips and weekend adventures for customers and prospective buyers. Now that kind of personal contact and support is part of Land Rover's international strategy.
For example, German dealers in early November organized a week-long trip to Dubai that included several nights of camping on a desert trek, and several nights in a five-star hotel close to duty-free shopping.
'We don't want to be a travel company, but we do want to be an off-road company,' said Hurst. 'Their propensity to repurchase jumps up' when customers have been exposed to Land Rover Experience events.
In the USA, 57 of the 111 Land Rover franchises - 51 percent - are Centres. They sell 63 percent of the US volume. The goal is more than 100 Centres in the USA, with only a handful of lesser, multi-brand dealerships left in a few smaller markets.
'It takes about 200 units a year to justify the investment' for a Centre, said Hurst. That precludes their widespread use in Germany, where customers seldom travel more than 12 km for service.
But new Centres are being built in South Africa and Australia, and all 17 of the Land Rover dealers in the Netherlands plan to switch to the concept.
Research backs up the idea of the Centres, says Land Rover. In the USA, customer satisfaction is higher at Centres than at the dealerships where Land Rovers share space with other brands. Research commissioned from Strategic Visions put the satisfaction of Centres at an index of 74, and the others at 65.
Satisfied customers are more loyal to the brand, said Hurst.
JD Power's 1996 Loyalty survey put Land Rover at the top in the USA, with 77 percent repeat customers, ahead of Cadillac's 64 percent. The sample was small (only 75 owners) but the result was good.