Jaguar Land Rover plays matchmaker

Attendees view Jaguar Land Rover models Saturday at The Gallery in the MGM Grand Detroit ahead of the 2013 Detroit auto show.

DETROIT -- Jaguar Land Rover plans to increase its global dealer count by 26 percent in the next four years, but U.S. dealers will actually see their store count drop.

In the U.S. market, the luxury manufacturer's dualing strategy -- pairing Jaguar and Land Rover under one roof -- will mean fewer dealerships. The brands, however, will maintain their representation in U.S. markets, Jaguar Land Rover executives are quick to point out.

The company is exhibiting at the Detroit auto show this year after a hiatus.

In the last three years, dealers have spent $1.6 billion worldwide on new or updated facilities. Executives expect global dealers to spend another $1.6 billion on their stores during the next three years.

Jaguar Land Rover plans to have 3,100 outlets globally by 2017. That's 635 more than it has around the world today. Growing demand for luxury vehicles in developing markets, particularly the so-called BRIC countries of Brazil, Russia, India and China, will drive the dealership expansion, said Phil Popham, Jaguar Land Rover's director of group sales operation.

Executives expect continued growing demand in the United States, too. Though there will be fewer stores, the aim is to significantly increase sales per dealership, said Andy Goss, president of Jaguar Land Rover North America. There are 245 U.S. dealerships today, and about half are dualed. The store count should drop below 200 by sometime in 2016, Goss said.

Goss and his team are acting as matchmakers between the remaining stand-alone Jaguar and Land Rover dealerships. The resulting conversations with dealers can be emotional and difficult, he said.

"Everybody wants to be the buyer," Goss said. "They don't want to sell."

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