Land Rover San Diego adds a ‘touch of elegance’ to the car-buying experience
By Catherine KolonkoWhile there are 166 Land Rover dealerships in the United States, Southern California has a higher concentration than other parts of the country, making it a very competitive market for the luxury cars. With this in mind, Jason Puga, 35, who owns and manages Land Rover San Diego, says he and his team of employees want to make every car-buying experience on his lot a memorable one.
Puga settled in the San Diego area after learning about the car business by working at dealerships across the U.S. after graduating from college in New Mexico. About 18 months ago, he accepted an offer from a former associate to become co-owner of a Land Rover dealership. He is an equity partner with Kuni Automotive, a privately held company that operates luxury dealerships in several states.
Since he took over the site at 9455 Clayton Drive in Mira Mesa as co-owner and general manager, the dealership’s monthly new car sales volume grew from about 25 to 75-85, Puga said. “The last two months we actually were ranked No. 1 in the western region and No. 1 in Southern California” for new car sales, he said.
Puga said he believes what sets his dealership apart from the others is his emphasis on creating a valuable customer experience through transparency, a quality not always associated with the car-selling business. Puga, who first sold cars in college, recalled learning from more experienced co-workers the importance of building trust with customers.
“I’ve taught my staff to do the right thing,” said Puga, explaining the core of his business philosophy. “We have to be very competitive, especially in this market. But the differentiating part is the customer is going to get a great experience here. They are going to know they left here being spoken to truthfully … and will be taken care of going forward.”
Land Rovers and Range Rovers attract affluent customers who typically earn an annual income from $150,000 to $350,000, and will pay from $40,000 up to $180,000 for a new car. The brand is often the preferred car for independent-thinking entrepreneurs.
“They are self-made people,” explained Puga. “They are founders who have established some kind of patent or business owners in the community. They have a different sense of the way business should be operated. They, themselves, have started at some point growing business from the bottom up and have probably become successful because of customer service.”
Puga teaches his employees to quickly identify the needs of a potential car buyer. “You have about four minutes for the consumer to make a decision whether or not they want to do business with that person. So building a rapport with the consumer is very important.”
Aside from his role as part owner, Puga also works at the dealership where he oversees six managers and 60 employees in his role as general manager. The dual responsibilities allow him to make decisions quickly and respond to customers’ concerns.
While this is his first shot at dealership ownership, the venture falls in step with Puga’s earlier goals in life of wanting to be a CEO or business leader, he said. Ford Motor Company recruited Puga soon after he graduated from college to help dealership owners build their business in locations throughout the United States. He later obtained a master’s degree from Pepperdine University and worked for several years as a consultant for car dealerships.
Puga’s dealership has participated in charitable work with Rady’s Children Hospital, a food bank and educational programs, and plans to cultivate additional relationships with other organizations as a way to contribute to the community, he said.
“We really want to be community advocates and pay it forward,” Puga said. “It’s not just about us being in business and being profitable. It is us understanding that without the community we really can’t be as successful as we have been.”
Land Rover San Diego
9455 Clayton Drive, San Diego