Dealership Design and Construction, My Two Cents…

Washing a customer’s car is like a cup coffee

Washing a customer's car in the early days.
Washing a customer’s car is nothing new. That said, automated car washing technology has come a long way since this early photo was taken. Modern systems can scan the vehicle and adjust brushes to maximize clean with minimum pressure.

Washing a customer’s car. Probably not a blog topic you might expect here. Bear with me. A few weeks ago, I was visiting a dealership. As I wandered around the store while waiting for my meeting, I noticed there was no coffee available and one of the two available vending machines was broken. Although I had the option of buying a snack, I had nothing to drink since there was no coffee or bottled water available. Just an old school water fountain located outside the bathrooms. I was there to talk to the dealer about his upcoming facility renovation. It dawned on me that our project was going to be more than just brick and mortar.


Merchandising in Your Showroom is More than just Balloons

Colourful balloons placed around a new car showroom.  They only take away from the cars on display.  Merchandising in your showroom is more than just balloons.
Balloons may look fun and pretty, but really only serve to distract customers from the cars on display in the showroom. Make the cars the stars. Use them to create that desire to be inside them driving them. Its not as hard as you might think.

I’ve often walked into a dealership and wondered, who makes the call on what cars go in the showroom?  The average person probably doesn’t ask this question as they walk into your dealership but as an Architect in the car business, it’s a question I am constantly asking myself.  These are, understandably, exceptional times. New car inventory is low to non-existent so you put whatever you can in the showroom these days. Even with limited inventory options, how you present your display vehicles, matters. Merchandising in your showroom is more than just balloons.


Bringing your Showroom to your customer’s Living Room – Facility Photographs and Photo Booths

Having a proper photo booth at the dealership is key in bringing your showroom into your customer's living room
An in facility photo booth can take your retailing to the next level. Make your car the star, and never worry about background, lighting, or weather. A properly photographed car can make the difference online between a customer contacting you and clicking the next picture on their Google search.

If the last eighteen months has taught us anything, it has taught us how to be more self-sufficient and creative. We’ve figured out working remotely, and reduced our face to face interactions. As a result we’ve been spending a lot more time in front of our computers, tablets, and smart phones. The car buying public was already using the internet to shop for cars pre-pandemic, but today it’s never been higher.  By bringing your showroom to your customer’s living room you have the best chance to get them to put down their tablet and come and visit your store.


The service drive is your customer’s first impression. Again and again.

The Service Drive is your customer's first impression of your service department. Vero Beach Toyota's service drive is bright and clean with a bold graphic on the wall and a Hunter Quick Check Drive system.
The Service Drive at Vero Beach Toyota in Vero Beach, FL – clean, bright, welcoming, and with a big, bold, exciting graphic. Each arriving customer drives their car through the Hunter Quick Check Drive. This gives both the customer and the service advisor a condition report of the tires, alignment, and vehicle condition.

There’s an old saying, “Sales sells the first car, service sells the rest.”  While this saying may be more about people, it’s actually the whole service experience that the customer considers. The Service Drive is the customer’s first impression of your dealership’s service department. What is it saying to them?


Top 5 Trends in Technology that your dealership should consider.

Top 5 dealership technologies to install today or plan for in a renovation or newbuild project

Technology. We see it in every aspect of our lives.  Every new generation of cars the manufacturers bring to market have exponentially more computing power than the previous generation. The cars on the showroom floor offer cutting edge computer technology. What about the facility they’re being sold in?  How technologically advanced is your dealership? It’s time to really take stock of the technology in your store. It can not only make your dealership more efficient and more secure, but it could help you save a lot of money.  Here are our top 5 dealership technologies you should consider including in your upcoming dealership project.


Exterior Dealership Maintenance – the Silver Lining of These Times

Weather beaten exteriors can really make a building start to look poorly maintained
Years of harsh sun and tropical rain have left this façade in need of a good cleaning

It’s no secret, dealership inventories have never been lower.  Every dealership is feeling it. But there’s a silver lining.  This is the perfect time to tackle all those long postponed exterior dealership maintenance projects. These are the small projects that need to get done around the dealership, but there’s never time. Or, moving inventory to create space takes time and is a massive hassle or inconvenience.  

It’s time to grab your iPad and head out for a walk around the property.  Don’t just walk the front of house, walk the whole property.  Just because your customers aren’t supposed to be back there doesn’t mean they don’t see it. Try to look at things through the eyes of your customer.  Remember if things are unsightly, dirty, or unkept, your customer absolutely sees them.   Here’s our shortlist:


Putting a Café in Your Dealership is Easier than You Think.

Putting a cafe in your dealership is easier that you think. Bright, modern Toyota Landcruiser themed cafe at Panama City Toyota
Panama City Toyota’s Café FJThis custom-built Toyota Landcruiser themed café offers a full service hot and cold coffee bar with an espresso machine, coffee brewers and a nitro cold brew tap. The food offerings included freshly made sandwiches, wraps, salads, and baked goods. The cold case offers juices and other soft drinks.

We often ask clients about incorporating a Café into their new build or renovation project. The topic is typically met with some resistance. Almost without exception, it is a result of just not understanding how easy it is. Putting a café in your dealership is easier than you think.


How Ready Is My Dealership for the Coming Wave of Pure EV?

The Taycan is the first Pure EV from Porsche. With many more coming, are dealerships ready for the coming wave of pure EV vehicles?
The Porsche Taycan is the company’s first pure electric production vehicle. A number of manufacturers have announced plans to move to a completely electric product offering. How will your car dealership adjust to sell and support pure EV?

As a facility owner or manager you’ve likely already asked yourself “How ready is my dealership for the coming wave of Pure EV?” There are many considerations in evaluating the facility for an all-electric product offering from the manufacturer you represent.


Five considerations when selecting a General Contractor for your dealership project.

Dealership demolition is about to start. Having the General Contractor involved in preconstruction will help things go smoothly.
Demolition day for Pinehurst Toyota’s old facility in Southern Pines, NC. Selecting the right General Contractor and bringing them in during preconstruction planning is critical.

Over the years we have overseen countless projects; new construction, renovations, service expansions, brand upgrades. Everything from showroom renovations under 5000 square feet to ground up 100,000 square foot plus dealership builds and everything in between.  One thing that consistently rings true, the right Contractor is essential. We often tell clients that selecting a General Contractor for your dealership project is like a short-term marriage. You are tied to the hip for the next 12 to 18 months, or longer if the project drags out.  Although there are several construction companies that specialize in automotive dealership projects, it doesn’t automatically mean they are the right choice.


Why bathrooms matter in your dealership

Modern beautiful bathroom at Pinehurst Toyota in Southern Pines North Carolina
This photo is from one of our most recent Toyota projects in Southern Pines North Carolina. A special thank you to the Pinehurst Toyota team, especially Ashley Holderfield who took the lead finalizing and selecting all the materials and finishes. Also to Toyota Motor Sales and Southeast Toyota who give dealers the latitude to make bathrooms their own. I know these are restrooms that Jim Moran would have been proud of.

Given the last year and half, and everything we’ve endured with the Covid pandemic, it goes without saying that clean bathrooms are important in any business, including your dealership. However, beyond clean and sanitized, there is well maintained and updated, and this is what I want to talk about today.

Over my 20+ years in this business I have walked into hundreds of dealerships and without fail, I head to the bathrooms first. This is the best way to get a good impression of how well the dealership is taken care of, and how much the ownership and staff pay attention to their facility surroundings. This approach isn’t exclusively my idea, I have heard many peers in the auto industry relay the same. In fact, it was something I learned from Jim Moran, the founder of Southeast Toyota. Mr. Moran always checked out the restrooms of every dealership he visited, he felt it was a good benchmark of how the dealership was doing.


“You’ll learn more from Contractors than you ever will in Architecture School”

Hiring the right architect for your dealership project

Hiring the right architect for your dealership project, is a vital part of a successful construction project
Currently under construction in Virginia, the new headquarters for the Exclusive Automotive Group was designed by the Penney Design Group, an architectural firm with experience on a broad range of building types and a team focused on the Automotive Industry.

If I had written on this topic 25 years ago, you would have said I was biased.

Back then, I was working for a large architectural firm in Boston and later in Chicago. I drafted up construction drawings, built models, and ultimately oversaw construction projects. The drawings the firm sent out were without comparison, I thought.


Managing our clients projects so they can focus on their business

When I first set out to write on this topic, the title was going to be “The Top 5 Reasons for a Dealership Owner to Hire an Owner’s Representative”. But as I mentioned in my previous post, while there are other firms that do specialize in representing dealership owners in managing their construction projects, our company takes a broader approach. Therefore, the term “Owners Representative” falls a bit short in truly describing who we are and what we do. As a dealership owner, facility upgrades, manufacturer brand standards, relocations, building improvements, and maintenance are all things that distract you from your daily business. Simply put, our approach is to be the resource for all your facility needs. From start to finish and even afterwards we stay engaged, even helping you maintain your facility well after the ribbon cutting is done and you’re occupying your new project.


Why don’t you go out on your own?

When first presented with the idea of writing a blog, I immediately pushed back thinking, “I am not a writer and I don’t have time to sit down and write about what is on my task list.” Then as I looked back at how ID Automotive came to be, I thought “how could I not?” How could I not share my experiences and give some insight that could help our dealer clients with their car dealership projects. After all, I was encouraged to venture out on my own by some highly respected peers in the Automotive industry, so paying it forward seems right.