Ford merges British PAG operations

Ford Motor Co. is combining the three British brands within its 2-year-old Premier Automotive Group into a single business unit.

The move merges the American operations of Jaguar, Aston Martin, and Land Rover into one organization within Premier Automotive Group's U.S. headquarters in Irvine, Calif. There will also be an East Coast office in Mahwah, N.J.

The Land Rover North America headquarters in Lanham, Md., will close in mid-2002, and most jobs there will be moved or eliminated.

The other Premier Automotive Group luxury brands - Volvo and Lincoln - stand separately outside the new British subset. But Premier Automotive Group is forming a unit under Vic Doolan, executive director of North American marketing and distribution, to provide shared services such as human resources, finance, information technology and to coordinate dealer development for all Premier Automotive Group brands.

Mike O'Driscoll is president of the new British group, Aston Martin Jaguar Land Rover North America. The reorganization takes effect Sept. 1. O'Driscoll was president of Jaguar North America.

'The driving force behind this is the marketplace,' O'Driscoll said. 'The three British marques compete with BMW, Mercedes-Benz and Lexus, all of which have a sufficient volume base and a strong and profitable dealer network,' he said. The changes were announced Friday, Aug. 10.

The new organization will intensify Premier Automotive Group's efforts to encourage larger, stronger dealerships with common ownership. O'Driscoll will start by trying to add Jaguar to Land Rover dealers or Land Rover to Jaguar dealers in mid-sized markets that don't have them both.

By consolidating brands, the group hopes to climb the sales-per-dealership chart. Based on 2000 U.S. sales totals, Lexus was the No. 1 luxury brand by far in sales per dealership, followed by Mercedes, BMW, Acura and Volvo. Aston Martin, Jaguar and Land Rover combined would have been No. 5.

Jaguar and Land Rover forecast big volume increases in the next few years.

Doolan forecasts American sales for the British group of 135,000 to 140,000 new vehicles a year within about three years, up from 70,876 for Jaguar and Land Rover combined in 2000. Through July, Jaguar and Land Rover combined were down 10.6 percent, to 37,052.

Doolan said he expects the new group to have a similar number of dealers as it has today but with many more points. He said Jaguar and Land Rover each have about 220 American dealers, covering 60 percent of the country.

Dealers are optimistic, said Mike Lazarus, co-owner of Long Island Auto Group (Jaguar-Land Rover-Porsche-Saturn-Volvo), in Amityville, N.Y.

Said Lazarus: 'I believe it's the natural evolution of the brands. The back office, the workshop, things like that will be consolidated.'

You can reach Peter Brown at pbrown@crain.com

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