By on January 23, 2008

newportlexus500.jpg"We're trying to create a feeling in our car dealerships more of a luxury hotel than a car dealership." This according to Lexus NA GM Mark Templin, speaking at the Automotive News [AN, sub] "world congress" (information without representation!). Templin encouraged U.S. Lexus dealers to offer the brand's customers enough upmarket creature comforts that they'll want to "hang out" down at the dealership, quaff a latte, check their emails, buy a car or something. Templin highlighted other advancements in the famous Lexus dealer experience, upon which its 178 purveyors (in 224 outlets) spent a cool billion bucks over the last three years. "They are making their Web sites more interactive," AN breathlessly reported. "Including virtual tours of the dealerships, their vehicles and even staffs." A virtual tour of a staff member? Whoa. That's taking the whole customer relationship deal a bit far, methinks.

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16 Comments on “Lexus: You Can Check in Any Time You Like…...”


  • avatar

    Now if Maserati & Porsche adopted the idea of allowing folks to hang out at their dealerships, quaff lattes, and test-drive, they’d be on to something. Or on something. A new offshoot culture of dealership beatniks perhaps? Wonder what kind of beard style they wear…

  • avatar
    Brian E

    My local Lexus dealer is like this. It’s impressive until you realize how they’re paying for it. There’s a difference between a nice dealer (and believe me, the Mercedes, Infiniti, Acura, Land Rover, etc. dealers are plenty nice) and one with LCD TVs embedded in a semi-opaque glass wall and floor, a coffee bar with pastries, and individual areas for each car separated by wood-and-glass barriers. It certainly does give off that upscale hotel ambiance, which is the feeling of dollars leaving your pocket.

    What I don’t understand is how these dealers still have web sites which completely and totally suck. It’s as if they don’t understand that the customer is judging them on their web site. If I go to a dealer web site and it doesn’t render right on my Mac, starts talking at me out of a stupid and annoying flash applet, has huge and garish text for headlines, and fifteen flashing icons on the site driving me to a severe case of webilepsy, I really think a lot less of the dealer. Alas, I haven’t yet seen a dealer web site which isn’t like this. Is it too much to ask for a coordinated and stylish web site design that allows me to quickly search new and used vehicle inventory and contact the dealer to get a quote without giving over the name and social security number of my firstborn?

  • avatar

    Brian E:
    If I go to a dealer web site and it doesn’t render right on my Mac, starts talking at me out of a stupid and annoying flash applet, has huge and garish text for headlines, and fifteen flashing icons on the site driving me to a severe case of webilepsy…

    You can’t possibly be talking about http://www.fordurban.com …

  • avatar
    Luther

    Are they going for the Bangkok Hilton experience?

  • avatar
    crackers

    I don’t care how nice they make the dealership. There is no way in hell I am going to hang around waiting to be mugged by some commissioned sales weasel or service adviser. With the adversarial nature of car dealerships, I would rather visit the dentist for a root canal.

  • avatar
    Steven Lang

    It’s interesting that you mention this because a similar phenomena has taken place at the dealer auctions. A lot of the auctions around Atlanta have renovated their facilities over the last few years with anywhere between $10 million to $50 million spent on them. In the process they’ve gone from the seedy to decent level… to downright Tara like in their splendor. We’re talking 60 foot high ceilings, marble columns, and all the services you would ever want to have inside an auction.

    The larger accounts, and the reps who work at these facilities like it fine. I also believe that a lot of the web savvy dealers appreciate the attention given to the environment. But a lot of smaller to midsized dealers have issues with it. It’s a very uneasy feeling sometimes when you’re having to pay $100 to $300 for every vehicle you buy or sell to a place that literally looks like a testament to affluence. The fact that many of the dealers lose money when they liquidate vehicles at these sales doesn’t help one bit.

    I’ve seen a lot of smaller and less ostentatious sales gain traction over the last several years. Part of the reason, at least, is attributable to their more personable and less corporate nature. Arbitration issues seem to be far less contentious and the managers of those sales, many of them are former dealers, are more attuned to the needs of the dealers. They are the ones who have experienced the strongest growth over the last five years.

    The Lexus concept may be good for those who wish to go far upscale with their ‘experience’. But the fellow who bought an ES330 may indeed look at the Camry during the next go round due to the perception of expense.

  • avatar
    Virtual Insanity

    I do have to admit, the local Lexus dealership runs a very tight show. Of course, its owned by the same guy/family who pretty much owns all car sales in our area, lol. I kinda like the Caddy dealership he runs a bit better, though, a little more laid back. The Lexus dealership, while nice, feels like it is trying to hard to say “we aren’t just upbadged Toyotas!”

  • avatar
    Zarba

    It’s like so many other lifestyle issues; they don’t actually expect you to hang out at the dealer, but it’s nice to know you could.

    It’s the fact that you feel special at the Lexus dealer, at a place that befits your status.

    It’s the same as any other high-end store, where the experience is part of the selling process.

    You want to feel pampered when you drop cubic dollars on your re-skinned Camry.

    Just givin’ you a reacharound, y’know…

  • avatar
    timoted

    Customer perception is everything. If you (as the consumer)perceive the environment is pleasant, the more likely you are to come back for service(s)and future vehicle purchases, parts, etc. and focus less on having to wait for service or the actual problem with the vehicle itself.

  • avatar
    blautens

    The posh Lexus dealerships were expected, but the car was an astounding deal at one, cheaper than the Lexus dealer closest to us (by $5000), so that sold it for sure.

    But the ice cream bar in the middle is the item that put it over the top for my wife – and why she’ll travel further for service. I’m happy with the bagels and pastries in either. Both have computers for guests to use, and free wifi in case you bring your own. One service waiting room is a bit more grand, but both are light years ahead of the Chevy or even Honda dealers.

    So….I dunno…is it worth it? Maybe…if everything else is good, you gotta set yourself apart somehow, right? So ice cream it is…

  • avatar
    Raskolnikov

    A stealership that gives away fuzzy feelgood stuff is still a stealership. Who wants to hang out with the folks that just attempted to sodomize you on your trade?

  • avatar

    Raskolnikov:
    A masochist, of course.

    The wealthy who truly are wealthy who have no monetary issue buying expensive vehicles do so because of the pet treatment & over the top attention they get at the luxury dealerships. They don’t look at a vehicle based on specs, they look at the purchase based on brand reputation (possibly read as brand snobbery) and the pampering they demand during the sale.

  • avatar
    Kevin

    Yeah right I’m going to spend Friday night hanging out at the Lexus dealership — it’s all free cappuccinos and pastries until they check my credit score … then suddenly it’s “loitering”.

  • avatar
    Kevin

    You can’t possibly be talking about http://www.fordurban.com …

    Fantastic. Hey wait a minute, what model is missing from that site? Does Ford not want “urban” people to be seen driving Mustangs?

  • avatar
    bleach

    Well no to Friday night, but yes to Sat morning. One thing you could do to get the goodies without the cost is to buy used. I didn’t plan it this way but I bought a used non-Lexus from the local Lexus dealer which I had to have serviced elsewhere anyway. But it still entitled me to the free car wash, coffee, etc.

    These freebies are not high in monetary value but they sure work on people’s desire for free stuff. You should have seen the rush one day when they wheeled out an omelette making station. These elderly women practically ran me over.

  • avatar
    jazbo123

    I hate pretense. I’d rather go to a Toyota dealer… even though I find those repellant too due to their wall-to-wall smugness.

    We’ll see how many latte-sniffing yahoos populate these places during the upcoming “economic adjustment”. Just having a car that runs may be enough for most folks.

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