Ever been in a car dealership and David Beckham has driven past in his Rolls-Royce and waved out of the window? Me neither, until this afternoon. An unusual event, perhaps, but then the Hornburg Jaguar Land Rover dealer on Sunset Boulevard is not your usual car dealer.
Hornburg is the JLR dealer where the rich and famous go to buy their cars. The lead singer of the Scissor Sisters was in just before me this afternoon to buy a Jaguar XKR just two days after passing his test. Beckham is a regular (an XKR and a Range Rover Autobiography Supercharged are his current JLR steers), as are Denzel Washington, Gordon Ramsey and Simon Cowell. A few years ago, Brad Pitt picked up Range Rover Sport Supercharged the day after turning up to the Oscars in a Toyota Prius.
Martin Dodsworth is the general manager of the Hornburg dealership. He moved here from a JLR dealership in Nottingham seven years ago and, ahead of the Los Angeles motor show, he described to me a car buying process that is a world away from the system we know in Britain.
“Buyers here want instant gratification,” Dodsworth explained, “so if the car can’t be delivered to their house by 5pm later that day then they will go and buy from somewhere else that can.”
Hornburg, which was converted from a pub to a Jaguar dealer in 1948, will typically stock around 110 new cars and up to 50 used models. And if one of those models is not to a buyer’s tastes, they will go elsewhere.
It is rare for a buyer to place an order for a bespoke-built model; if they do place a deposit for a new car, by the time it’s ready to be delivered they will typically have forgotten and gone and bought something else.
As many as nine out of every 10 sales is done by leasing due to the huge tax advantages. And as the drivers never have any intention of owning the car outright, they are typically poorly cared for and in need of plenty of spit and polish when traded in for the latest model year.
Servicing is also a fairly alien concept to wealthy buyers; the first service has to be offered free or people would simply not bother. “There’s no such thing as a full service history here,” said Dodsworth.
Business is strong at Hornburg on the Land Rover side of the business in particular, with around 25 Land Rovers sold every week. Around 60 per cent of its sales are Range Rover Sports, with another 20 per cent being the Range Rover and the rest split between the Evoque and LR4 (Discovery). Competition is fierce, though, not only from rival makers offering cheaper leasing deals but from other JLR dealers too. There are five in a 15-mile radius, so having a strong stock is essential.
There are a few models Dodsworth believes will increase footfall even more. A seven-seat version of the Range Rover Sport “will kill the market”, he reckons, while a smaller Jaguar to rival the BMW 3-series would give the brand “a cheaper entry point into the brand and a cheaper leasing rate”. And more volume for Jaguar would increase brand awareness and improve sales of the other models as a result, Dodsworth believes.
With model expansions imminent for both Jaguar and Land Rover outside their core line-ups, and the launch of new Range Rover, Range Rover Sport and Jaguar F-type models due within the next year, times ahead look good for Hornburg, JLR and UK plc on Sunset Boulevard. They’ll just be hoping David Beckham doesn't follow through on his plan to move to a new football club, but stays in LA to swap his Range Rover and XKR for a new Range Rover and an F-type.