The Range Rover is moving closer to Rolls-Royce, Bentley and Aston Martin in ways other than price and performance. The shopping experience is also starting to look familiar to consumers in that rarefied air.
With the 2023 Land Rover Range Rover starting at $106,000, and fully loaded ones selling for more than a quarter-million, Land Rover dealers are taking a page from ultraluxury brands’ retail playbooks.
A growing number of Range Rover customers are no longer driving home in new models chosen from dealer inventory. Instead, they are commissioning their vehicles to be built using Land Rover’s Bespoke program, which offers a large palette of colors, upholstery options, wheels and trim items, such as wood appliques and ceramic shifters.
Land Rover Princeton in New Jersey has seen its Bespoke orders for Rovers jump from almost zero before the pandemic to nearly 5 percent today. Part of the growth is a result of the chip shortage and other issues disrupting regular production. The dealership’s general manager, Steve Bergamo, has deftly capitalized on the inventory shortage situation. The sales staff conveys this message to customers: Since you’ll have to wait for your vehicle anyway, why not order the exact one you want and not settle for something close? It’s a pitch that is being heard.
“We’ve been working with our customers a little differently than we have in the past,” Bergamo said. “We’ve been reaching out and giving them an opportunity that in the past they might not have really thought about, to build something that is of specific interest to them.”
Bespoke orders benefit the store in several ways. They reduce the number of unsold vehicles the store stocks, which also reduces floorplan expenses since Bespoke orders are delivered immediately.
Joe Eberhardt, Jaguar Land Rover’s North American CEO, says Bespoke orders are improving customer satisfaction and loyalty. “That’s a huge opportunity in terms of getting customers engaged with the brand to a much greater degree. It’s a much deeper relationship when you actually sit down with a client concierge and think through, configure and order a vehicle you really, really like, as opposed to choosing one sitting on the lot.”
Said Bergamo: “We’ve found that people actually enjoy the prospect of building what they want. I’ve been doing this a long time, and I’ve seen a lot of customers come in wanting a blue car but end up leaving with a white car because that’s all that was available. Now, it’s don’t settle. We’ll help you by reaching out in advance, and we’ll walk you through a great building-buying process. I think our clients enjoy that much more than just walking in. Now, they are ordering what they want.”
Land Rover Princeton’s sales staff is trained on guiding customers through the Bespoke ordering process. Part of that includes showing customers an area in the showroom that has displays of the custom colors and materials available for order.
“We have an area that is very centrally located within the showroom that has paint chips, leather samples and interior trim pieces. It is very difficult to miss it because it is in such a prominent place,” said Bergamo.
Certain custom paint colors, such as Icy White Satin Finish, can add more than $12,000 to the price of the vehicle. Checking the box for the SV Signature Suite Veneer Club Table Surface adds $19,000-plus to the window sticker. Wheels, leather headlining and other items offer nearly limitless combinations, so each Bespoke order is usually a one-of-one build, a key selling point at the dealership.
Bespoke orders involve more than the sales staff. Because of the long lead time between when the order is placed and when the vehicle is delivered to the store, the sales process starts well before leases end to ensure a smooth transition out of the old vehicle and into the new one. Scheduled sales also help the store run more efficiently.
“We are starting the process a little sooner than we have in the past,” said Bergamo. “Our sales staff is getting in touch with the customer four, five and even six months out asking them what they want to do and starting the conversation.”
The Bespoke system is set up with plenty of built-in flexibility. If a customer wants to make a change after the order is placed, it can be done a few weeks ahead of the vehicle’s actual build date.
Customers can also go off the menu and pick a unique paint color, a scenario Land Rover Princeton has seen a few times. “We’ve done several one-of-one paints,” Bergamo said. “That takes some extra time. But if you are doing something that is truly unique, [customer waiting] time doesn’t matter that much.”
Bergamo says the Rovers most often ordered with Bespoke trim and colors are the more expensive models, such as the SVR and Autobiography versions.
One of the Bespoke models that stands out in Bergamo’s mind was sold last year: “We had a customer commission a Holland & Holland Edition Range Rover. From the ornate metalwork on the door handles and center console to the wood running boards that roll out, it was a very cool car. The owner of that vehicle is over the moon happy with it.”
Other Jaguar Land Rover models can be ordered through the Bespoke program. And Bergamo believes his dealership has the potential to grow Bespoke orders for the hot-selling Land Rover Defender. He believes such orders will continue to increase even after the chip shortage ends and inventory levels return to normal.
“It’s fun to see people walking up and grabbing the chips and walking outside to see what the paint looks like in the sun. It’s very engaging, like going to a fine furniture store and picking out every aspect of the couch you want or having a suit made for you. It’s a very individualistic expression of oneself.”