85.7 F
San Fernando
Monday, Jun 17, 2024

Valley GM Dealers Improve Facilities, Add Amenities

U.S. automakers are starting to catch on to what luxury foreign brands have known for a while: car shoppers want to shop in a pleasant environment if they are going to plunk down tens of thousands of dollars for a new vehicle. That’s the reasoning behind some major new upgrades at General Motors dealerships in Thousand Oaks, Simi Valley and Valencia. Part of a nationwide modernization program funded partly by GM, the local dealerships are adding customer greeting stations, customer lounges with free Wi-fi, laptop computer stations, and in some cases, a café or salon. In the Southern California market, where sales of domestic brands can lag behind those of imports, the hope is that these improvements will make dealers more competitive in attracting and retaining customers. GM contributes money toward the cost of the improvements according to a formula of cars sold. “It is going to be costly for these dealership to bring (their stores) up to an industry standard that’s streamlined and pleasant,” said Jesse Toprak, vice president of market analysis for Truecar.com. “In the long term it will pay for itself.” GM, whose brands include Chevrolet, Buick, Cadillac, and GMC trucks, accounted for 10.5 percent of new car sales in California for the first quarter 2012, according to the California New Car Dealers Association. The owners of Parkway Cadillac Buick GMC in Valencia are spending $500,000 for interior and exterior upgrades, which started in April and are scheduled for completion in mid-July. The showroom will get a cleaner and more open look and feel, with space for up to six vehicles and glass partitions between offices rather than bare walls, said general sales manager Anthony Sorensen. “It is old and dated right now,” Sorensen said of the more than 20-year-old building. Other dealers taking part in the GM program are William L. Morris Chevrolet in Simi Valley, Silver Star Chevrolet in Thousand Oaks and Power Chevrolet in Valencia. Dealers nationwide began enrolling in the program in the first quarter 2010. By taking part voluntarily in online activities, direct mail and email advertising, as well as training for technicians and service advisors, these dealers would receive payment from GM that would offset the cost of the improvements, said John Mastro, Field Manager – Cross Channel for GM in the Los Angeles area. The amount dealers received is based on the number of cars ordered from GM. For instance, for ordering 11 to 25 vehicles, a Chevrolet dealer receives $7,000, a GMC dealer receives $8,000 and a Cadillac dealer receives $11,000, Mastro said. The amount increases as the number of vehicles ordered rises. Dealers can use the money to relocate, build new or just make minor changes. The only requirement is following the uniform exterior look and the interior decorations such as furniture, tile, lighting, paints and finishes. GM even has standards for the artwork on the walls. Chevrolet will have a linear look to the entryway painted in a recognizable GM blue with the familiar bowtie logo, while GMC will have an arch for its showroom entrance. The use of sandstone gives a premium upscale look for Cadillac dealers, Mastro said. “It is a smart move on GM’s part,” said Jeff Morris, the principal owner of Morris Chevrolet in Simi Valley, another dealer taking part in the program. “They have put a lot of money into the new GM and now they want to make sure the facilities and processes are equal to that.” Morris declined to discuss details for the improvements to his business as he was still in the planning stage. GM is one of the car world’s most recognizable names and during much of the 20th century was a symbol of U.S. industrial might. But such longevity has saddled the company with legacy dealerships that have not changed their look in decades. “A lot of our competition does not have the same legacy and they are up-to-date and modern,” Mastro said. U.S. carmakers have long lagged behind the Germans and Japanese when it comes to the presentation of dealerships and what GM is doing is bringing their sales locations up to par, Toprak said. “If you look at BMW,” Toprak added, “they are like little spas; they have massage chairs.” Toyota requires a similar look among its U.S. dealers and several years ago did a similar facility upgrade program. Mercedes Benz also adopted new standards for its dealers. In late 2011, Keyes Automotive in Van Nuys opened its $35 million Mercedes dealership and adopted a new look that incorporated water and light savings measures, including an acre of solar panels on the roof. GM is not just responding to other car dealers, but to the retail market in general, Mastro said. “Everybody out here in the marketplace wants to do business with someone that is relevant,” Mastro said. “That is what this is about — bringing the dealers and facilities into the relevancy of today’s consumers.”

Mark Madler
Mark Madler
Mark R. Madler covers aviation & aerospace, manufacturing, technology, automotive & transportation, media & entertainment and the Antelope Valley. He joined the company in February 2006. Madler previously worked as a reporter for the Burbank Leader. Before that, he was a reporter for the City News Bureau of Chicago and several daily newspapers in the suburban Chicago area. He has a bachelor’s of science degree in journalism from the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign.

Featured Articles

Related Articles