I’d like to report on something that, on the surface might seem trivial and not particularly relevant to you, but if you’ll allow me to elaborate for a moment, I think it might be.
It came to my attention a few weeks back that the little Kensington-based Jaguar dealer, RA Creamer and Son, was going to relinquish its franchise because of the challenges involved in meeting Jaguar’s new corporate strategy.
Now, Creamer’s is a special dealership for several reasons. It opened its doors back in 1927, and later on became Jaguar’s first official dealer. Today, its hard-wired connection to the very heart of the marque is palpable: the managing director, Michael Quinn, is the grandson of Jaguar’s founder, Sir William Lyons, and if that’s not pedigree enough, it’s also the place where the Queen and Prince Charles collect their Jags from, so it's effectively by Royal Appointment, too.
Bearing in mind Jaguar’s pride over its heritage, I was a little surprised that it was content to let such a big slice of it disappear so easily, so I rang Mr Quinn to find out what the deal was. I fully expected him to be spitting feathers about his treatment, but he bears no grudge; he was at pains to resist any bashing of Jaguar Land Rover’s management, and took a rather more sanguine approach.
You see, Creamer’s is unique among the Jaguar franchise network for more than its origins, bloodline and Royal patronage. Rather than conducting its business from a generic, glass-walled, retail palace like so many dealers these days, Creamer’s exists as a web of small mews buildings, within a stone’s throw of Kensington Palace.
It’s quaint without being contrived, and possesses a charm all of its own. But the limitations of its sprawling, yet confined, layout, mean it’s been outgrown by JLR’s recent expansion. In fact, due to a lack of showroom space and the ever-burgeoning range, the company already decided to stop selling new cars in late 2014. Instead, it concentrates on its after-sales business, which, along with the Windsors, includes a deeply loyal, local clientele.
So why should this matter to you? You’re probably thinking, “It’s simply progress, and unless you want to end up like King Canute trying to push back the tide, you’d better get used to it, Howell”. You’d be right of course, but I think there’s more to the loss of independent dealerships like Creamer’s, and it’s something that affects all us car-buying folk.