Reports at the time of their introduction suggested the Arch dealerships cost around £1bn in total
The dealerships were conceived when Jaguar Land Rover was peaking – new plans could be bad news for retailers
Even if you haven’t heard of Jaguar Land Rover’s Arch dealership concept by name, the chances are you would recognise it. Conceived in 2013 and rolled out since, it describes the firm’s dual-branded dealerships, noteworthy for their imposing right-angled structures, stripped-back colour palettes and reputed prices of up to £15 million each.
Back when Arch was conceived, JLR was rocking. Land Rover could do no wrong – Range Rover especially so, the Evoque capturing the post-recessionary mood perfectly. Jaguar was also set to finally deliver, on swagger with the F-Type, on volume with the XE and then – so read the plan, at least – on profit with a family of SUVs.
Reports at the time suggested the combined cost of the new dealerships in the UK – chiefly borne by the dealers – would be around £1 billion.
Although the roll-out has taken far longer than originally believed, that has primarily been down to planning issues. There was no shortage of willing from retail groups keen to invest in the vision and be part of the expansion.
What a difference a decade makes. Today, there are reports that the Arch concept is dead, killed by the reimagining of Jaguar as a high-end electric car maker from 2025. Usually on the pace for breaking dealership news, the Car Dealer website reports that retail bosses have been told that in the UK the firm plans to axe Jaguar dealerships from 83 today to fewer than 20 in just two years. JLR has issued a terse statement in response, denying it has settled on a plan. Autocar has been told off the record by those who should know that Car Dealer’s report faithfully reflects the dialogue between the two sides to date.
Now, none of this is to say that Jaguar’s approach is wrong. Few, if any, would question its need to be bold, and going fully electric and pushing upmarket is certainly a throw of the dice (maybe even its last one).
It couldn’t carry on as it is, but this is not a battle it will win easily, given its stuffy heritage, the near dereliction of the brand in recent years and the strength of its opposition. As such, sentiment was never going to get much of an outing.
Nevertheless, you can only imagine how the dealership groups that invested so heavily in dual-brand showrooms, scaled with the ambition of hosting two thriving, complementary brands, now feel.
Yes, it’s hard to feel sorry for more-profitable-than-ever car dealers – but those saddled with white elephant edifices, scaled well beyond their needs and with overheads to match, are facing substantial losses.
In this industry, memories are only as long as the next opportunity, and there may well be a happy ending to all this. But, for now, there’s a risk JLR’s Arch dealerships stand as a monument to profligacy, paid for by its dealers and – ultimately – customers.