STERLING, Va. — At many dealerships, customers taking delivery of a vehicle would be fortunate to walk away with a handshake and keys to the car. But ultraluxury vehicles call for extraordinary experiences.
At Sterling Motorcars, about 35 miles outside Washington, D.C., that mindset is central to the company's white-glove delivery program.
Sterling sells about 4,000 vehicles each year, with annual revenue of about $230 million.
The ultraluxury side of the group annually sells about 200 Rolls-Royce, Lamborghini and McLaren vehicles. High-net-worth customers include doctors, lawyers, businessmen, star chefs and sports figures. Many of them want an exotic car to take out for special occasions or weekend fun, while others are collectors seeking unique vehicles to display in a garage.
"I'm trying to create an adult candy store for automobiles," says owner and CEO Thomas Moorehead.
A key piece of the customer experience is delivery, and Sterling Motorcars makes it a full production, much like the unveiling of a work of art or a ribbon-cutting ceremony.
Staged in the showroom, the car is draped in black with a bow on front and the lights turned on. A salesperson wearing white gloves slowly pulls back the cover to reveal the car. The client receives a champagne toast and, in some cases, flowers.
The retailer frequently provides a gift, such as a box of cigars or a bottle of the client's favorite liquor placed in the trunk.
The event is videotaped, put to music and loaded on a flash drive for customers to relive the occasion.
"Making that delivery process special is one of our trademarks. And we are consistent," Moorehead said.
One Rolls-Royce customer picking up a Phantom in September got a bonus when the automaker's CEO, Torsten Muller-Otvos, happened to be visiting the store and signed his name on the engine block.
"Those little touches make a huge difference" in terms of repeat business and loyal clients, Moorehead said.
For customers who don't want to put miles on their car, the store will deliver it to their home in an enclosed truck.
Sterling Motorcars opened its dedicated Lamborghini showroom, designed to meet the automaker's new design standards, in October and has broken ground on a separate McLaren showroom. The expansion is scheduled to be ready in March.
"I think the final touch is absolutely important," local businessman Fazal Sirhandi told Automotive News as he took delivery of a white Rolls-Royce Ghost.
Sirhandi, who also has ordered a Lamborghini from the dealership, added that the sales staff's ability to help him customize the car with two-tone leather seats and a white-leather inlaid steering wheel was equally gratifying.
"It's those little things that make it amazing," he said.