End of the Road For Ford’s Premier Automotive Group?
When Ford hailed the opening of the headquarters for its Premier Automotive Group (PAG) on November 14, 2001, in Irvine, California, the facility served as North American headquarters for Jaguar, Land Rover, Volvo, and Aston Martin. It also served as global headquarters for Lincoln Mercury. The idea was that putting the facility in Southern California would put those brands where they could be immersed in the latest trends and styles, thereby becoming more in-tune with what trendy, affluent vehicle shoppers were looking for.
The press release accompanying the opening of the Irvine facility featured the words of Dr. Wolfgange Reitzle, who was at the time the president of Premier Automotive Group: “California offers a trend-setting, diverse and consumer-focused culture and is the ideal location to plan the growth of our premium brands. The area between the Rocky Mountains and the Pacific comprises the largest luxury vehicle market in the world and it makes terrific sense for us to be at the epicenter.”
Not only was the new location trendy, but the new building was very green, with “sustainable” design features including a natural gas fuel cell (to provide 25 percent of the building’s power and hot water), 35 Electric Vehicle stations powered by building’s main source, and a “green” roof on the Product Development Wing, with rooftop landscaping used to create home to more than 30 categories of vegetation.
Now, just over seven years later, the Premier Automotive Group headquarters- and PAG itself- has lost its luster. Lincoln Mercury was ousted from PAG in 2002 in order to let the group focus on its European brands. Aston Martin was sold in March, 2007. Final word on the sale of Jaguar and Land Rover to Tata Motors is iminent. And late last week, Volvo announced it is relocating its North American headquarters to Rockleigh, NJ, which was Volvo’s home from 1964 until the move to California in 2001. During the time Volvo’s headquarters was relocated to Irvine, Rockleigh was maintained as the headquarters for the company’s customer care, parts, and service operation.
With the sale of Jaguar and Land Rover, Volvo will become the only remaining Premier Automotive Group member. Last week’s announcement that Doug Speck has replaced Anne Bélec as CEO of Volvo Cars North America shows that Volvo is committed to getting a fresh start in their reclaimed New Jersey home, which could be seen as a symbolic gesture if Ford moves away from a corporate structure including a separate Group for its Premier Automobiles. My advice to Mr. Speck: a C30R, a V70R, an S80R, and a C30 D5. And don’t forget to turn out the lights when you leave Irvine.
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