CHICAGO: Jaguar and Land Rover have rolled out a national program to encourage US dealers to act as local PR people.
The two automakers, part of Ford's Premier Automotive Group, have created a toll-free hotline that dealers can call for PR advice and suggestions.
"It's a one-stop shop where dealers can order show cars or video materials," said Simon Sproule, VP of communications for the two brands.
A tool kit has been supplied to the 160 Jaguar and 150 Land Rover dealers across the country. "I've got, effectively, a network of over 300 PR people around the US as a result of this," Sproule said.
ASG Renaissance, the Detroit firm that works with Jaguar and Land Rover, is handling calls to the hotline, as well as working with dealers on topics like how to get attention from local papers and TV outlets.
The brands have been working with ASG for about a year, and have given it added responsibilities, Sproule noted.
"We want to encourage dealers to make PR part of their consumer marketing mix," explained Sproule. "Traditionally, dealers have relied very heavily on advertising and, to a certain extent, events."
The two brands began testing the concept of dealer involvement in PR in the third quarter of last year, and felt it successful enough to go national this year. A related newsletter is also being produced for dealers.
Sproule himself is visiting dealers to "make sure that PR is on their agenda," he said.
There are plans to expand the program to offer dealers incentives - such as free trips - for their effective use of PR. Automakers routinely have sales contests for dealers, and they respond well to such competitions, Sproule explained. "Why shouldn't you say to a dealer, 'You've done a great piece of PR, so you've won a trip?'" he asked.
Jaguar and Land Rover had strong US sales last year. Land Rover sales were up 51% to 40,987 vehicles, thanks to its new Freelander. Jaguar sales rose 37% last year to 61,204 cars sold. Sales for both brands were down in January, as were overall US auto sales.
Bob Dover, COO for the British brands Ford owns, said at the recent Chicago Auto Show that Jaguar and Land Rover will see increasing competition in the luxury market, and he plans to respond with increased sales and marketing support. He recently opened a Chicago sales and marketing office to provide support in the Midwest. Dover said he wants his brands to be known as luxury products with a conscience and with corporate integrity standing behind them.