Putting 'butts in seats' sells cars to about 40 per cent of attendees

Jaguar Land Rover targets potential customers, pushes them to the edge to get them over the edge

PITT MEADOWS, B.C. — Jaguar Land Rover Canada says its million-dollar investment to give prospective buyers hands-on experience with its products is paying off handsomely.

Like other luxury automakers such as Porsche and Mercedes-Benz, the British-based OEM stages events that allow would-be customers to push the envelope a little to demonstrate its vehicles’ performance potential.

Where it parts company with competitors is by not including existing owners.

“This is actually targeted at shoppers,” says Alex Sykes, Jaguar Land Rover’s regional dealer training co-coordinator for Canada. “We try to stay away from people who are already in the brand. It’s more for people who’ve been identified by a couple of our partners, banking partners, things like that, as far as potential buyers.”

The automaker is doing five Art of Performance events in Canada this year: Vancouver; Calgary; Montreal; and two in Toronto.

The carefully structured events give drivers a chance to whip powerful Jaguar F-Type sports coupes and XE sedans, and the new F-Pace sport utility around tight handling courses to demonstrate their agility.

Meanwhile, staff from Land Rover’s permanent off-road school at Montebello, Que. (which hosts free courses for new LR owners), chauffeur them through hair-raising demonstrations of the legendary marque’s sure-footedness in extreme situations.

Public Relations Manager John Lindo says the events have drawn 2,700 people this year. The program is not cheap, he says, costing roughly $500 per participant, which translates to more than $1.3 million this year.

“We see a great return on investment for sales,” says Sykes.“I believe the last time we were out here I believe we got between 30 and 40 per cent (purchasing a vehicle).”

The company’s managers in Canada and the UK are big believers in “experientials,” he says.

“Butts in seats really do translate into sales.”

Flashy commercials and lifestyle advertising bring exposure but there’s no substitute for the “smell of burning rubber” to establish performance credentials, he says. “That comes back to the point it’s an authentic product,” says Sykes. “It’s not just ticking one out of three boxes.”

You can reach Steve Mertl at stevemertl@gmail.com



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