When designing ultra-luxury dealerships the Ritz is the comp

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Buyers of ultra-luxury cars have high expectations, not just of the car and the customer experience, but also the dealership. From the interior materials used to including storage space for clients’ cars, ultra-luxury dealership facilities must create the right environment for their wealthy clientele.

“The main thing is these places are destinations,” Miguel Yelos San Martin, principal of YSM Design, tells Getting to Go! “There is a very fine line between them and a very high-end hospitality facility. It is the same thing as going to the Ritz; (customers) expect that.”

YSM Design has worked on Aston Martin, Bentley, Maserati, and Koenigsegg facilities, among other ultra-luxury auto brands. YSM also has worked on U.S. stores for ultra-luxury consumer brands such as Phillipp Plein, a German brand known for flashy clothing and studded high tops.

The dealership facilities offer multiple luxurious amenities including very nice seating and controlled lighting, he says. They have special areas where customers can choose specifications for their vehicle.

The interiors of ultra-luxury dealerships often use natural materials, especially leather and wood, San Martin says. The manufacturers send their own design team to work with YSM during the design process, and usually have preferred suppliers for the interior materials, he says.

“It is very tight quality control,” San Martin says. “They want the same quality that they have on their cars in their buildings.”

Aston Martin and Maserati, for example, require the leather used to upholster dealership furniture be the same as that used in the vehicles’ upholstery.

Dealerships sometimes include areas where clients can store their cars when they aren’t using them. In Miami, for example, clients come for the winter and need to store their cars when they go elsewhere for the summer. The dealerships charge for maintaining the cars while in storage.

The storage areas are secure and well-lit, and in hot climates such as Miami, temperature-controlled, San Martin says.

To pair or not to pair

For high-volume markets such as Miami, a stand-alone showroom can be worth the investment for some ultra-luxury brands, San Martin says. “Unless you are in a high-volume area, you won’t be able to pay the rent,” he says.

For other locations, ultra-luxury brands often share a building. But each brand has its own entrance and waiting area with the distinctive brand ambiance.

For example, Miami-based Murgado Automotive Group spent a reported $20 million on a two-story, 29,000 sq. ft. dealership in Jacksonville, FL housing a Bentley franchise and Maserati/Alfa Romeo franchises. It opened in mid-2020.

Each franchise has its own entrance. The Bentley franchise has a putting green in front of its entry and the Maserati/Alfa Romeo entry is fronted by a large lawn chess set. The Maserati and Alfa Romeo showrooms are separated from Bentley by a large connected covered open space.

O’Gara Coach Company’s Beverly Hills ultra-luxury franchises are spread across several distinct locations. For example, they have McLaren, Rolls-Royce, Bugatti, Koenigsegg, and Rimac centered around one address, with Bentley and Lamborghini at another.

Many manufacturers require that a showroom has a separate area for clients to select color and leather and “many other things,” Cheri Watters, executive director, automotive operations at Sunroad Enterprises, says. “It’s about lifestyle.”

Some manufacturers, including Aston Martin and Bentley, have their own line of furniture, which must be in the showroom, Watters, who is experienced in ultra-luxury dealership operations, says. “The idea is to make the showroom inviting,” she says.

There are more ultra-luxury dealerships opening in the United States, San Martin says. The Murtado group’s Jacksonville dealership was an open point, for example.

But exclusivity is the hallmark of ultra-luxury, and that means scarcity. So, the number of ultra-luxury dealerships will stay small, and their facilities will remain exclusive.

YSM also has designed many facilities for premium brands including BMW, Mercedes-Benz, Cadillac, and Genesis.

As of January, there were only 35 Aston Martin dealerships, 57 Rolls Royce and 69 Bentley dealerships in the United States. There were 384 Mercedes-Benz and 366 BMW dealerships.

The premium brand facilities are “designed for a lot of traffic,” San Martin says. “They could be a destination but generally they are not.”

This article was written for Getting to Go, a buy/sell newsletter from Scali Rasmussen.