JAGUAR AND Aston Martin are teaming up in North America to build a dealership that will showcase their cars as fine art. They will try to incorporate every 'best practice' available in the automotive retail industry.
Within the next year Jaguar Cars North America and Aston Martin Lagonda of North America Inc. are scheduled to open the elegant and upscale South Coast Motorcars in Mission Viejo, California. Although the two companies are building the store, they will sell it to a dealer before it opens. Neither carmaker would name the dealer.
Jaguar and Aston Martin will have separate showroom space and individual sales and service staff. But they will share the same philosophy: that their customers are passionate about their cars, said project manager Lawrence Williams. He is also Jaguar's national franchise development manager.
South Coast will serve as a model for Jaguar stores within North America and for Aston Martin worldwide. Both companies are owned by Ford, which purchased them a decade ago.
'It will have the feel of belonging to an exclusive club, a place to go in and have coffee and talk about cars,' said Andy Watt, Aston Martin vice president. 'We have a personal relationship with our owners.'
Jaguar has not had a dealership in wealthy southern Orange County, California, since a franchise in Newport Beach closed in October 1994. Williams said Jaguar is also looking for a location in Newport Beach, because of strong customer demand in the area.
Both Jaguar and Aston Martin conducted focus groups over the past two years, including one-on-one dinners with some car owners. The companies benchmarked luxury retailers outside the auto industry, especially piano company Steinway & Sons, which has an exclusive store in Paramus, New Jersey. The salesroom displays pianos surrounded by original oil paintings in a cathedral-like setting.
The South Coast store incorporates many of the elements that customer focus groups said they wanted, Williams said.
'How do you match the level of passion and excitement Jaguar and Aston Martin owners have for their cars?' Williams asked. 'It came down to a personal relationship. The setting needs to complement that feeling that the consumer has for the car.'
South Coast will sit on a pie-shaped, 12,000-square-meter site. The entrance will feature a fountain surrounded by a circular driveway. Outside, vehicles will be displayed in a landscaped, garden-like setting.
The art gallery theme will be carried out inside as well. For instance, Watt said the Aston Martin portion of the showroom may feature accessories such as Oriental rugs, original art, a Louis XVI armoire and coffee-table books and magazines about cars. The showroom will not be crowded, with each car displayed having its own show space.
The dealership will have a private viewing area, similar to a fitting room at a fine tailor. Cars under consideration will be brought to this area so that the customer can study them closely and talk with the sales staff without distractions.
Both brands will call their sales force 'client managers.' They will be the customer's single contact, whether they are seeking sales or service assistance.