With the appetite for luxury cars waning in recent years, Moore Jaguar in west St. Louis County has felt the effects, prompting Missouri's only Jaguar dealership to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy this week.
Moore Jaguar/Aston Martin Inc., owned by Ronald Moore, filed the voluntary bankruptcy petition Tuesday in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in St. Louis.
Moore Jaguar, located at 14116 Manchester Road, has 30 employees.
Ronald Moore, who was at the dealership Wednesday afternoon, declined to be interviewed. In an e-mailed response to questions, Moore Jaguar described its operations as "business as usual."
In the statement, Moore Jaguar said "general economic conditions" prompted the filing and that the dealership will remain open as it reorganizes the business.
Last year, although Aston Martin is in the name of its incorporation, Moore Jaguar stopped selling the competing line of British luxury cars, which cost more than $100,000.
Moore Automotive Group shed its Cadillac franchise in mid-2008, and the Jaguar dealership is Moore's only remaining franchise.
Moore has suffered other setbacks. In 2006, a former chief financial officer of Moore's automotive group was found guilty of wire fraud after embezzling $2.4 million from the company for personal uses. The former employee, Julie Diane Lewis, was sentenced to 41 months in federal prison.
In its bankruptcy filing, Moore Jaguar lists between 50 and 99 creditors, with both assets and liabilities ranging between $1 million and $10 million. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch is listed as among the creditors holding the 20 largest unsecured claims, with $4,945 owed. The largest unsecured claim, $140,699, is held by Jaguars Land Rover North America of Mahwah, N.J.
The cars at Moore Jaguar come with eye-popping price tags. A 2011 Jaguar XK 2-door convertible with leather interior is listed on the dealerships's website at $94,000.
Indian-based Tata Motors bought Jaguar and Land Rover from Ford in June 2008 for $2.3 billion and has focused on selling higher-priced models at lower volumes, which has been a challenge for some dealerships.
Jaguar sales, which reached more than 61,000 in the U.S. in 2002, steadily dropped to 12,059 in 2009 before seeing a slight increase last year to 13,340.
"Jaguar dealers are under pressure because of the limited volume and difficulty Jaguar has had in gaining traction in the luxury category," said Jeremy Anwyl, CEO of Edmunds.com, an automotive consumer research website based in Santa Monica, Calif. "Tata got out of the entry-level cars and focused on higher priced cars at lower volumes, which is probably the right thing to do for (Tata) but poses a conundrum for dealerships."
The difficulties at Jaguar also reflect a downturn in demand for luxury cars. Domestic sales of luxury cars declined during the recession from 1.78 million in 2007 to 1.1 million 2009, according to Edmunds.com. Last year, luxury car sales picked back up to nearly 1.3 million.
Graham Hill, co-owner and president of STL Motorsports in Chesterfield, said sales are picking up. At STL Motorsports, a $205,000 Bentley for sale can be found parked near a $483,000 Rolls Royce.
STL Motorsports took on the Aston Martin franchise for the St. Louis area at the end of October, and has already sold 10, Graham said.
"They relinquished the Aston Martin franchise and we took it over," he said of Moore Jaguar. "There's a big pent up demand."
Graham said having a critical mass of eight luxury franchises in one place has helped drive sales at his dealership, and gives him the ability to take luxury trade-ins. "If a guy's driving a Bentley or a Ferrari, we welcome that trade-in," he said.