OpenRoad capitalizes on unique, niche brands

Rolls Royce Motor Cars Vancouver. Photo courtesy of OpenRoad Auto Group
VANCOUVER  - 

Vancouver-based OpenRoad Auto Group — comprised of 23 stores and 19 brands — has had a busy past year. The dealer group expanded into the U.S. for the first time with the acquisition of a Bentley, Rolls Royce and Lamborghini store in Bellevue, Wash., south of Seattle.

And the dealer group added the McLaren nameplate, well-known in the Formula 1 racing world, to its Seattle-area lineup this past spring. This makes them the only retail partner for McLaren Automotive in the Pacific Northwest.

And north of the border in Vancouver — the dealer group’s home city — it opened its remodeled Rolls Royce Vancouver showroom and held a launch party in March for its new Karma Vancouver store — the third in the county, and the only rooftop for the hybrid supercar brand in Western Canada.

Karma — a luxury hybrid supercar brand — and Rolls Royce, are both known for their elite customers. When discussing the launch of the Karma store, Aly Jiwani, general manager of both the OpenRoad Karma Vancouver and Rolls Royce Motor Cars Vancouver stores, told Auto Remarketing Canada in a phone interview, “Vancouver, being such a destination for people to have high end supercars and exotic cars, you know we want to be a part of everything that we can that way.”

Jiwani added that being a part of the Vancouver culture is important to the dealer group, so Karma “was just a natural fit” for OpenRoad.

But what’s particularly unique about the Karma brand and its sole model, the hybrid Revero, is that it is environmentally friendly, as well. In fact, the model was named the 2018 “Luxury Green Car of the Year” by the Green Car Journal.

 As for whether the award has served to bring in new leads to the store, Jiwani explained, “More than anything else, especially at this level, people are wanting that car that nobody else has, and if they can add the fact that it won that award, that’s just a nicer story to tell.

“Our customers like the fact that it is so environmentally friendly, but it is so unique and it has a very exotic look to it, as well,” Jiwani added.

He calls the Karma brand the “best of both worlds” — green and luxury.

The new store, which opened with a Southern California-inspired party this past March, is unique in and of itself, as well. It is one of only three Karma stores in Canada; there is also a Karma rooftop in Montreal and one in Toronto.

And the Revero? Even more elite. In fact, according to Jiwani, there will only be 40 sold in Western Canada over the next two years. And currently, there are only about four in Vancouver — all of which were sold during the first two months the store was open. This is perhaps not surprising, since the Karma factory in Moreno Valley, Calif., only builds one Revero per day in North America. And each vehicle is made by hand. According to Jiwani, the Karma brand stands out primarily because of “the way the car looks”.

 “Again, it’s one of those cars that no one else has, and there are only a few in Vancouver right now, where there are hundreds of Ferraris and McLarens, and others,” said Jiwani. “So, I think just the uniqueness of the brand, and just the way it looks is quite spectacular.” This uniqueness even extends to the logos — all of which are hand painted.

Jiwani explained the feel of the Karma store itself is closer to that of a high-end hotel lobby, rather than an auto dealership. And the staff at Karma Vancouver looks to provide a shopping experience that customers potentially wouldn’t receive at a brand that has more volume.

“When people are buying a Karma or a Rolls Royce, it’s like buying a bespoke suit — they want it exactly how they want it — and we are going to cater to what they want,” Jiwani explained.

The store features one brand manager, and two Revero models — one showroom model and one to test drive. And when customers sit down for their vehicle consultation, Jiwani shared it’s more of a “lounge feel”, including a big-screen monitor to spec the vehicle out.

“So, we are trying to definitely offer more of a relaxed atmosphere, where it’s not like your typical car buying experience,” he said. Karma’s pre-owned future With so few Karma models in Western Canada, Jiwani says it’s unlikely they will be offering many pre-owned models soon.

But of the four Reveros delivered so far by Karma Vancouver, three are out on three-year leases. And in Jiwani’s experience, people who buy cars like the Karma Revero “tend to get bored very quickly, as well.

“And they want what is latest and greatest, as well,” he added. So, when these three and more make it back into the dealership, Jiwani expects their will definitely be a market for aspiring Karma owners that may not be able to afford the starting new price tag.

“Three years from now, Karma as a brand might have expanded its lineup, and they might want to get into another Karma or get something else, right? So, only time will tell,” Jiwani explained.

Taking the Rolls Royce experience to the next level OpenRoad also owns one of four Rolls Royce dealerships in Canada. And Rolls Royce Motor Cars Vancouver is also the only standalone Rolls store in North America. The nameplate, another luxury brand known for its elite customer base, is often paired with other high-end nameplates like Bentley and Lamborghini.

When the dealer group acquired the store in 2014, it was going well, but Jiwani explained they wanted to “take it to the next level.” The new dealership is now located on Vancouver’s busy Burrard street, right at a major intersection.

And the showroom is 5,0000 square feet and has two levels. Jiwani says when all lit up at night, the store looks like a “jewelry box.” The new store, the grand opening of which was on May 17, was impressive enough to be used as the location for the official launch of the Rolls Royce Cullinan, the brand’s new SUV.

“So, it wasn’t done out of N.Y. or L.A., or an auto show, it was done at our showroom in front of a North American audience,” said Jiwani. “We had over 50 media members there, and it got international traction.”

Now the store, he says, has more pre-orders on the new Rolls Royce SUV than any other Rolls dealership in North America.

“The demand is definitely there,” he added.

As for how the store caters to its niche customers, services like 24-hour concierge, full car detail for service visits, Rolls Royce loaner cars, and the option to bespoke or personalize each vehicle, keeps their customers coming in. The dealership will even bring the customer to the Rolls Royce Goodwood factory in England to bespoke the vehicle there, if they prefer.

Again — taking it to the next level. As for whether OpenRoad will be looking to explore any other niche brands, Jiwani shared, they are “always looking to expand the group,” and in the short-term, the focus is on potential expansion across Canada.