TORONTO — Jaguar Land Rover Canada will forge ahead to increase the number of dealerships despite a softening market and a buyer shift away from sedans, company President Wolfgang Hoffmann said.
“At the moment, we have 25 dealerships,” Hoffmann told Automotive News Canada. “And by the end of 2022, we will have 32 in total. That was the plan announced in September 2017, and nothing has changed.”
The first of the new stores will open in late summer in Ottawa, Hoffmann said, with others planned for Alberta, British Columbia, Ontario and Quebec.
“It’s probably a three-year process, and some will take longer because of the municipalities and their way of handling these applications.”
JLR has not been immune to consumers’ growing preference for utilities over sedans. During the first seven months of 2019, Jaguar sales fell 15 per cent and Land Rover sales dropped 3.5 per cent, according to the Automotive News Data Center in Detroit.
“The total market softens and then specifically the premium market softens for various reasons. It’s maybe not as easy to get credit anymore, or the housing market slowed down, or people don’t feel as wealthy anymore ... that puts pressure on the total premium side.”
Still, Hoffmann has confidence in the long-term future of passenger cars.
“It is still a very significant part of the market, especially in other parts of the world,” he said. “North America is a different situation. We as a company believe there is still a place for the sedans. I also personally believe if you see a shift and a trend in one direction, you will at one point see a leveling off, and some people may be coming back to the sedans.”
Hoffmann, a 53-year-old native of Germany who moved to JLR from Audi Canada more than three years ago, commented on a range of issues:
ON WHETHER HE HAS REACHED HIS INITIAL GOALS WITH JLR
I think we have achieved most of our objectives, but there is still so much work to be done — on the customer satisfaction side, integrating new tools in the showroom, building out new technologies to the showroom. There’s so much more than just the brick and mortar.
ON JLR’S NEW ARCH IMAGE PROGRAM, LAUNCHED LAST NOVEMBER
When you are in front of our showrooms, you see two arches on either side of the building — one for Jaguar, one for Land Rover. We have 15 of the 25 dealerships that have been converted or built new. This year we expect another six to come online. The cost depends on each individual retailer. We worked very diligently and intensively with our colleagues in the U.K. to get the cost per square footage ... down as much as possible.
ON LAND ROVER’S 11.5-PER-CENT INCREASE IN SALES IN 2018
Our numbers are very positive. We are gaining market share with Land Rover; that’s the most important thing for me. You can argue, of course, the trend to SUVs helped Land Rover a little bit more than the Jaguar, but we are happy with both performances.
ON REINTRODUCING THE OFF-ROAD DEFENDER, ABSENT FROM NORTH AMERICA SINCE THE 1990s
What we heard in Canada was there was a lot of rumbling about the Defender a year ago. We were approached not just from our dealers but also customers wondering if it was true. I believe there is a lot of pent-up demand for a car like that from a premium manufacturer because no one else offers that.
ON CHANGES AT JLR CANADA’S HEAD OFFICE IN MISSISSAUGA
We changed the dress code last year [to include jeans]. We need to be professionals for our partners in the U.K. and our retail partners and show them the respect. It’s a business-casual look ... They don’t wear ripped jeans. And in the summer, we do some barbecues together and try to inject a little bit more fun. We’ve also given our employees more access to our vehicles and let them take the cars overnight or for the weekend to take pride in it.
ON PLANS TO ELECTRIFY ALL NEW PRODUCTS STARTING IN 2020
The whole strategy ... is independent from whoever rules the government because you can’t base a strategy on who is governing the country. You do it because you believe in it, and we need to find a way to move away from internal-combustion engines. ... We believe the way is battery electric.
ON FACING NEW CHALLENGES
This is home, my permanent job; it’s a dream job for me, and I love what I am doing. There’s so much more to be done moving forward.