Jaguar Land Rover dealership closing

Lexington's Jaguar Land Rover dealership is closing Wednesday, a victim of being in too small a market, its president says.

Jim Haynes said the decision was made before the auto industry fell deep into its prolonged crisis.

"The business conditions reinforced our decision," he said.

The dealership, at the intersection of Man O' War Boulevard and Palumbo Drive, had been open about five years. "We did build some customers, but we never built up an adequate volume to make the store a sustainable business venture," he said.

"I think the size of the market is inadequate for a stand-alone building for a limited-volume brand," he said.

The dealership had 21 employees until about three months ago, when half were let go to cut costs, said acting general manager Mark Gold.

"The real tragedy of it is that a great group of employees here are going to be out of a job in a difficult economic time," Gold said.

The dealer's remaining employees are being offered the opportunity to transfer to Louisville, where Haynes operates a dealership that sells Audi, Porsche, Saab, Jaguar and Land Rover.

The company plans to continue providing service to Lexington's Jaguar and Land Rover owners. Louisville employees will drive to Lexington, pick up the vehicles and return them.

And the Jaguar and Land Rover brands have agreed to withdraw from the Lexington market for five years to facilitate that.

"We hope to sell a lot of Land Rovers and Jaguars in Lexington," Haynes said. "We're just going to do it from our building in Louisville."

The personalized service for existing Lexington customers might add costs, Haynes said, "but it's less expensive than having a full-blown dealership and presence there."

"Even though we won't have a physical presence in Lexington, we want to make sure we still have a market presence and care for our wonderful Lexington clientele," Haynes said.

Haynes said the company has no immediate plans for the real estate and building, which is close to the Urban Active Fitness gym on Palumbo Drive and to Hamburg Pavilion.

"It's a wonderful location," he said.