It’s not about hard selling. Not any more.
Spend an hour or two with Ken Choo at London’s Bentley dealership Jack Barclay — flagship of the countrywide HR Owen network of 15 luxury car dealerships — and you’ll soon learn that the process that delivers prestige cars into the hands of new owners no longer involves old-style persuasion.
Neither do Choo and his team want it that way. They’re well aware that today’s luxury car buyers arrive with a pretty good idea of what they want (having usually done prior research online) and they have an even clearer view of how they want to be treated. Dealers are for helping them realise their dreams and emphatically not for coercing them into unwanted actions.
“We won’t chase people,” says Choo. “Instead, we create events and opportunities they want to join. We had 500 guests at the recent Geneva motor show and they tell us they had a great time. This kind of thing gives us opportunities to know our customers and understand what they want. There’s a lot of trust and goodwill in this business nowadays, or should be. It’s founded on continuity, not one-time profits.”
Which begs a big question.
Choo has just spent big money refurbishing the famous Jack Barclay showroom, a London landmark for 86 years; if sales centres aren’t needed, what was the point of that? “It’s our window on the world,” explains Choo. “We use it to meet people, to understand and follow trends and, of course, to display our latest cars. We deliver cars from here, too, if that’s what buyers want. And because the place has such a history, many of them do.”
Choo, a quietly spoken 45-year-old Malaysian who trained in accountancy in Australia, had precious little knowledge of the luxury car game before he arrived in Berkeley Square at the beginning of last year but believes his fresh eyes have helped progress the business in new directions.