Land Rover dealers said at a meeting yesterday that they want higher profits, better quality from the factory and a commitment from the company that their respectful style of retailing will remain.
While the Range Rover line has boosted grosses, the aging Freelander needs support, said Mike Levitan, dealer council chairman and dealer principal of four Land Rover stores on New York's Long Island.
Mike O'Driscoll, president of Aston Martin Jaguar Land Rover North America, said Range Rover will account for the majority of the new-vehicle profit, but last fall's mid-cycle freshening of the Freelander should bolster grosses as well.
Communication between dealers and the factory will improve, thanks to Land Rover taking its dealer service and customer service call centers in-house.
Land Rover also will boost its parts supply logistics and support and has increased its field staffing.
Levitan, who has been a Land Rover dealer since 1997, said he expects 2004 to result in "the best information trail" between the factory and dealers, whether by phone or over a boosted Internet technical support network.
But Land Rover executives admitted the franchise still has a long way to go on quality, having scored the worst of any luxury brand in the J.D. Power surveys.
"Quality is No. 1 with us. We just haven't been able to deliver it," said Richard Beattie, executive vice president of marketing and sales for Jaguar and Land Rover North America.
"We have some old platforms with engineering challenges, regardless of how well they are manufactured," Beattie said. "Once we have new vehicles on dedicated platforms, you will see a jump in the scores."
Levitan also expressed concern that new managers rotating through Land Rover as part of their Ford Motor Co. career might be more concerned with moving the metal than how the metal is moved.
"We sell backward," he said. "We meet and greet customers, have posted prices and only then sell the product. I'm not sure the new people are aware of the 'Land Rover Way.'"