A number of Spokane-area new-car dealers have renovated their properties over the last few years and more such projects are in the works, spurred by requests from the automakers whose product lines the dealers carry.
The projects are part of a nation-wide push by carmakers to create brand identity, attract more customers to dealerships, and put them at ease once they do come.
Dealerships here have spent at least $4 million on facility improvements just in the last two years, and more are planning to remodel their facilities before long.
Though automakers arent demanding the upgrades, theyre encouraging dealers to remodel as part of national identity-forming strategies, says Greg Loberg, general manager of Jaremko Nissan Saab Inc.
I think manufacturers are asking dealers to commit to the improvements and seeing more sales as a result of it, he says.
Jaremko Nissan Saab, at 6901 E. Sprague in Spokane Valley, recently spent $850,000 to construct a 6,600-square-foot building for its Saab operations. Next month, the dealership plans to start a project in which it will spend about $900,000 to demolish the showroom at its adjacent 6,600-square-foot Nissan building, construct a new showroom, and remodel its service department and business offices there. The project will add 1,300 square feet of space to the facility.
Jaremko demolished its former Saab building, located just east of the Nissan facility, last year, Loberg says. That building, which was built in the 1950s, last was remodeled about 12 years ago, and the Nissan building was built in 1978.
Loberg says that Jaremko decided to remodel its facilities last year, after the automakers it represents presented dealers with different upgrade plans. Both Saab and Nissan have architects who design basic facility blueprints that can be modified based on location, he says.
Nissan has developed an updated image, called retail environment design, that aims to make customers feel comfortable, Loberg says.
It gives them an upscale image thats more attractive to customers, he says.
In the design, the outside structure is predominantly red and silver, and uses metal cladding and glass to make the building look more modern, he says. The interior is open and spacious, and includes the latest furnishings such as a plasma TV. Jaremkos new Saab building has a fireplace in the showroom.
Other Spokane Valley dealerships have participated in the contemporary-design trend, including Dishman Dodge, which is located just east of Jaremko, at 7700 E. Sprague. Dishman recently completed construction of a $2.1 million, 14,500-square-foot facility, which has an oval-shaped, glass showroom thats visible from Park, Sprague, and Appleway avenues.
Jaremko chose to remodel its facilities partly because of the manufacturers suggestions, but also because it needed more space, Loberg says. With Saab soon introducing two productsa 9-2 wagon and a sport-utility vehicleand Nissan producing full-size V-8 pickups and SUVs, more room was needed to accommodate the additional models, he says.
Though Jaremko is footing the bill for the construction and remodeling, Saab and Nissan offer financial incentives to complete those types of projects, Loberg says. Incentives vary from manufacturer to manufacturer, and may include grants, and low-interest or long-term loans, he says.
Dale Cornwell, co-owner of Becker Buick GMC Inc., says those financial incentives usually are small.
They offer a little bit to entice you, he says.
He says he expects that Becker, located at 636 E. Sprague, will spend at least $350,000 to remodel the stores facade and showroom and about $250,000 possibly to add a quick-lube building there by the end of this year.
General Motors recently asked Becker to move or update its building, which was constructed in 1964, Cornwell says. Most automakers prefer for their vehicles be sold in high traffic areas, such as near malls and freeways, he says.
Cornwell says he and his partner, Gordon Kauffman, didnt want to move the dealership because its high-volume service department is easily accessible to customers at its current location. They agreed to remodel and begin selling Pontiacs at the dealerships main location and at its North Side lot, at 6623 N. Division.
With the additional make, Becker plans to ask the city to vacate sections of First Avenue and Sheridan Street just south and west of its main building to create room for about 75 more cars, Cornwell says.
That need for more space and the buildings age, rather than General Motors request, prompted the dealers plans to expand and renovate, he says.
I dont know how strong of a requirement it waswe felt we needed it anyway, he says. Its time to make it look nicer and bring it into the 21st century.
Becker will delay the remodeling until the city approves the street-vacation requests and General Motors architects visit the site and make design recommendations, Cornwell says. Exterior upgrades likely will include a large, blue facade with the automakers logos, which are consistent with the designs of other General Motors dealerships, he says.
Andy Keys, general manager of Wendle Motors Inc.s store at 4727 N. Division, across from NorthTown Mall, says Wendle plans to remodel its Suzuki showroom this summer to comply with that automakers strategy of creating a corporate image.
Suzuki, which is known in the U.S. more for its motorcycles than its cars, is trying to develop a consistent look at its dealerships, Keys says.
The remodeling will benefit Wendles Suzuki dealership because a showroom redesign will increase the visibility of its current building, which was built in the 1960s, Keys says.
After this, people will drive by and know its not just a Ford dealership, he says.
Wendle might spend up to $500,000 remodeling the Suzuki showroom, which will both update its look and create more space to display vehicles, Keys says. The dealer did minimal remodeling of the building six years ago, he says.
Wendle also plans to remodel its Ford showroom across from NorthTown and update its signage at its other store, at 9000 N. Division, in about a year.
Since Wendle agreed to the renovations, Suzuki will allow it to earn back through car sales the amount spent on remodeling, but with limitations, Keys says. Wendle must sell a certain number of cars within a prescribed time to be eligible for that allocation of reimbursement money, he says.
If they want to help you do this facility, you have to be prepared to increase sales to make it worthwhile for them and you, he says. Thats pretty common with most of the import dealers.
Ray Kish, co-owner of Honda of Spokane, at 8201 E. Sprague, says that Hondas guidelines for remodeling aim to create a recognizable image that will draw customers and boost sales.
Its giving back to the community what they deserve to havea modern facility that will bring forth a modern image to attract consumers to the facility and the products, he says.
Kish and partner Chris Marr own the Honda dealership and Acura of Spokane, at 8325 E. Sprague, through a company named K&K Motors Inc. They also own Foothills Lincoln Mercury Mazda, at 203 E. North Foothills Drive, through Spokane Lincoln Mercury Sales Inc. They recently spent more than $600,000 remodeling the Honda dealerships showroom, customer waiting area, facade, and signage to comply with the automakers standards, and also upgraded the service department there, Kish says.
K&K Motors last remodeled the Acura facility in 1998, when it spent about $300,000 upgrading the building to comply with that automakers design standards, he says.
Hondas program calls for a cylinder-shaped facility with a wave-shaped awning, Kish says. Those features will give a state-of-the-art, unique look to Honda dealerships nation-wide, some of which are operating out of old gas stations, he says.
Though Honda didnt help reimburse Honda of Spokane for its remodeling expenses, the manufacturer offered to help increase the dealerships product line to help it cover the additional costs, he says.
Foothills Lincoln Mercury Mazda plans to begin renovation in the near future at the Mazda facility since that automaker also is developing a design program and requesting that dealers participate in it, Kish says. The Lincoln and Mercury facilities eventually will be upgraded to give the entire dealership a unified look, he says.
Dave and Steve Coombs, who own Downtown Honda, at 1125 W. Second, renovated that dealership last year at a reported cost of about $550,000.
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