There are two ways to market luxury vehicles. Mercedes-Benz is playing it one way, selling a range of vehicles under one brand.
Wolfgang Reitzle, who oversees Ford Motor Co.'s five luxury brands, is playing it the other way.
Mercedes-Benz 'can do an A class and an S class. They can do a minivan and a sport- utility. They can do a truck. They can do almost everything and they have a premium,' Reitzle said.
But Mercedes-Benz is the only brand in the world that can get away with that strategy without diluting its brand, he said.
So, Reitzle is taking the second approach.
He will offer a portfolio of vehicles, just as Mercedes does, but through a family of brands: Jaguar, Volvo, Land Rover, Lincoln and Aston Martin. And he will sell the vehicles in dealership campuses to achieve the efficiencies of scale obtained by single-brand retailers such as Mercedes.
'We want to go for so-called common ownership Premier Automotive Group dealerships,' Reitzle said. 'What that means is that one dealer has five showrooms for our five brands, all exclusive, with exclusive salespeople.'
'So you have consistent brand representation,' said Reitzle, group vice president of Premier Automotive Group, which handles the luxury brands. 'But backstage, all the processes are common.'
This week, UnitedAuto Group Inc., under chairman and CEO Roger Penske, will break ground on a project that includes the first Premier dealership. Ten are planned in the next 18 months.
The Premier campus will comprise an estimated 15 acres of a 41-acre auto dealership park in Phoenix, said Steve Knappenberger, president of UnitedAuto Group West.
The Premier campus will include a quarter-mile test track, an amenity sought by the automaker. Premier showrooms will be housed in a crescent-shaped building.
The Premier brands will be differentiated via separate store fascias, showrooms, sales staffs, service reception areas, service advisers and service technicians, Knappenberger said.
'If you go to a high-end mall, you see Tiffany's, Gucci and Neiman Marcus each have distinctive storefronts,' he said. 'That is what you will see - common walls but storefronts that are separate and distinctive.'
Any employee who interacts with customers will work exclusively for one brand, Knappenberger said of the Premier store.