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EAGERS Automotive has become the latest McLaren dealer with the opening in Perth last week of the brand’s biggest sales and service centre in the Asia Pacific region.

The centre, alongside Eagers’ Cupra showroom and across the road from the group’s imposing Mercedes-Benz dealership in the southern Perth suburb of St James, is the fifth McLaren outlet in Australia.

It is also the only one of the brand’s outlets to belong to Eagers – the others are operated by Zagame (Melbourne and Adelaide), Autosports Group (Sydney) and Peter Warren Automotive (Gold Coast).

In Perth, Eagers has appointed Nadja Lenehan as its brand manager. 

In opening the Perth dealership, McLaren’s head of Asia Pacific Charlotte Dickson said Eagers was chosen after McLaren called for expressions of interest in a Western Australian franchise. Dealerships in Perth were asked to tender for the McLaren franchise.

“When we are deciding on a new outlet for McLaren, first and foremost we look to see if there’s an existing car park of McLarens because the customer is always the centre of what we do.

“We very quickly realised when we were looking at the carpark here (Perth) that it’s a growing carpark of McLarens and therefore having an authorised service centre was going to be very important to ensure that those cars can be serviced through an authorised partner. 

“So that was the first reason for getting Eagers to set up here.”

McLaren’s head of Asia Pacific Charlotte Dickson

Ms Dickson said another major reason to select Eagers was based on its experience in the automotive industry, highlighted by the availability of quality technicians.

“We’ve taken some of their technicians and then fully-trained them in the McLaren technology. And that training happens here in Australia,” she said.

“We hold regular technician training. Every time we launch a new car, we will have our training team come out from our headquarters in England to one of our retailers in Australia where they’ll have two or three days of immersive training.”

McLaren Perth’s service centre now employs two dedicated technicians, a service manager and some shared technicians from, for example, the Mercedes-Benz workshop, along with parts experts.

But Ms Dickson said McLaren did not share workshop space with another brand.

“We always request a dedicated work base for our brand. It’s what our customers expect.”

When tenders went out to interested dealerships to become a McLaren franchise, the brand asked the parties how they viewed McLaren fitting in the Western Australian space?

“That would cover everything from the sales volumes, the service side of things, what does customer retention look like? How do they see the customer journey? What marketing would they do? So we look at a number of different factors,” she said.

“And off the back of that, then we decide who’s the most appropriate for us. What we found with Eagers was that they already have an existing relationship with some of our McLaren customers.

“But what we really saw talking to the team here is the passion for the brand. And that is first and foremost, very, very important. You can have a perfect business partner. But if they don’t love what we do, it won’t work. 

“Eagers, 100 per cent of them, had the passion. So that’s why we chose to go with them; plus the fact that all the experience that they have in Australia, through selling cars, servicing cars, and providing customer service.”

Ms Dickson said no more dealerships were planned for Australia as well as New Zealand which has a single representative dealership in Auckland. But she said that McLaren has an annual full market review.

“That’s the case with every market within Asia. So in Asia-Pacific, my team has everything outside of Japan and China. There’s 16 markets that we are responsible for,” she said.

“In that is a wide range of factors – political, economical, number of high net worth individuals, and so on. These are ever-changing and so the reviews are done annually. 

“So we can see opportunities to put in additional sites. It might not be in the short term, but it might be five years down the line. 

“Australia for us is a very important market. It’s a growing market. And therefore, I think definitely in the future there’s room for further expansion but not in the short term. Now we’ve Perth on board and we’re very happy with our coverage.”

Ms Dickson said New Zealand was also an important market, not the least of which is that it is where the business founder, Bruce McLaren, came from.

“Our brand does very well in New Zealand purely because the customers love the heritage, they absolutely love it,” she said.

“You’ll see most McLaren’s in New Zealand have the ‘Speedy Kiwi’ logo which was Bruce McLaren’s racing logo.” 

“I’m based in Singapore and the 16 markets that I look after have totally different cultures, different car markets, different taxation structures, different currencies, different customer profiles. It makes the job very interesting.”

Asked what can be learnt from this diversity of markets, Ms Dickson said the most important facet was feedback.

“That’s feedback from customers and feedback from our retailers. When we have a new vehicle launch, then I’ll spend some time in those markets afterwards meeting some of our customers and asking them what they thought about the car, if they liked it or didn’t and why, and what they would like to see in the future? 

“(We ask) where do you see the brand going? And that can be from a product perspective but it can also be what experiences do they want? If I’m going to plan a massive McLaren ownership event, what would they like that to be? 

“So we’ll get the customer feedback. And then obviously, the retailer feedback is also very important because the retailer network are the specialists in those countries. 

“They will tell me about what our competitors are doing. This is what they do really well and where they’re failing. Where can we take best practices and adapt them and make them even better? 

“I guess the other thing is that in terms of, say, local currencies and taxation, we need to feed that back to the central team so that we can make sure that our pricing of the cars is accurate within those markets. 

“That’s obviously very complicated, because the taxation structures especially are totally different.”

Ms Dickson said that in some countries there is a hybrid tax benefit. In Thailand, for example, the tax rate on a car like a McLaren is 230 per cent but if you buy a hybrid, it’s only 40 per cent.

“Then you know that when you’re planning volumes off the back of customer demand, you’re going to have a lot more demand for the Artura hybrid than on, say, a 750S (ICE) because the taxation difference is massive.”

McLaren sold 71 vehicles in Australia in year-to-date to the end of September, a record for the brand.

“We’re very pleased with the demand in Australia, especially with the products that we have at the moment, and then the products coming,” Ms Dickson said.

“I think the 750S (due in the first quarter of 2024) will be amazing for Australia. We’ve already taken a good number of forward orders, despite the fact we don’t yet have a physical car here.

“That just goes to show the strength of the (predecessor) 720. The 720 went amazingly well in Australia and I think the 750S takes the benchmark of that car and just pushes it a little bit further.

“So we’re expecting the 750S to be very positively received.”

By Neil Dowling