In pursuit of the 'wow' moment
Case dealership offers haircuts, cheap fuel, unlimited car washes and a wedding chapel
More than 50 years in auto retailing have only heightened Rick Case's desire to give shoppers a "wow" moment. For instance, Rick Case Honda provides a 10-year, 100,000-mile limited powertrain warranty on all new Hondas, twice that of the manufacturer.
Outside the six-story dealership, customers with rewards cards line up to buy discounted gasoline at an eight-pump gasoline station. Customers can also get unlimited free car washes.
Inside the dealership in Davie, Fla., near Fort Lauderdale, are conveniences of a small town. In addition to a well-stocked cafe, Rick Case Honda has a barbershop, driver's and marriage license bureau, wedding chapel and, on Election Day, polling booths for about 3,800 voters from Broward County.
"We offer amenities other dealers won't," says Case, 70, who opened Rick Case Honda in 2002, 40 years after he started in auto retailing with a used-car dealership in Akron, Ohio.
Today Case and his wife, Rita, oversee the 28th-largest U.S. dealership group. Rick Case Automotive Group in Fort Lauderdale has 15 dealerships with 2012 new-vehicle sales of 20,726.
The Honda store in Davie sold 5,450 new vehicles in 2012, the most in south Florida and fifth most nationally, according to Honda.
Finding new angles
Case said he's always looking for an opportunity to bring potential customers into the store.
Take the gasoline station. Customers who buy a car at Rick Case Honda get a rewards card that entitles them to buy discounted gas at the store's station, get free car washes and earn points when they spend money at the store.
The gasoline sells at 8 cents to 35 cents per gallon less than a customer would have to pay at retail. The gasoline station is the only one in the group, which will add two dealerships near Rick Case Honda this year.
Case plans to spend $18 million to open a Volkswagen dealership by October in the same auto mall that currently houses his Honda, Hyundai and Fiat stores in Davie. The VW store will have an eight-story showroom and inventory deck because the dealership is squeezed onto four acres.
Case also plans to spend $15 million to open a Kia store by November five miles up the road in Sunrise, Fla.
He said expensive land prompted the original design of the $20 million Honda store. It has a six-story inventory deck adjacent to a showroom so shoppers can go up to see vehicles.
A pneumatic tube, similar to those used for drive-in banking, sends keys to salespeople for test drives.
Case, who opened Hyundai's first U.S. dealerships in 1986, argued forcefully in the mid-1990s as a member of the Hyundai dealer council that Hyundai offer a 10-year, 100,000-mile limited powertrain warranty on its vehicles. Hyundai announced the plan in 1998.
Case said he decided in 2002 to adopt the same confidence-boosting strategy that he pioneered at Hyundai -- doubling of the manufacturer's warranty -- on every vehicle he sold at his dealerships.
"It's one of those "wow" things that sets us apart," Case said.
To lure people who might not normally come to Rick Case Honda, Case has made space available at no cost to numerous agencies and other service providers. Two barbers offer $10 haircuts, Case said.
There are also government offices for paying parking tickets, renewing driver's licenses or obtaining a marriage license to get married -- possibly at the dealership's chapel.
A bustling village
Each Election Day, the cars are pulled out of the showroom so voters can pile in, Case said. About 3,800 people come there to vote -- many of whom wouldn't know about the store except that their voter registration cards direct them there.
The store is so busy with people coming and going each day buying gasoline, kicking tires or having a meal in the cafe that Case calls General Manager Richard Bustillo the "mayor" of Rick Case Honda.
The store also has a 40-bay service center, express bays and collision center with nine paint booths. "It's about drawing people to the store," Case said.
Rick Case Honda hit the ground running, becoming the nation's top-selling Honda store in its first month of operations in 2002, Case said. The next year it set the still-existing single month record for new-Honda sales while going on to sell 7,294 vehicles for all of 2003, according to Honda data.
Mario Murgado was getting his own Honda dealership off the ground in the Little Havana section of Miami when Rick Case Honda opened in Davie. Murgado bought Brickell Honda in 2001.
Murgado said he considers Case a fierce competitor and a friend who is always willing to lend a hand on charitable events or community activities.
"He's a hard worker who's good at marketing," said Murgado, who has held town hall meetings and other activities at his store to put his dealership on the map beyond car sales.
"He puts his money where his mouth is."
• Cheap gasoline and free car washes for new-car buyers
• Warranties that double the manufacturer's new-vehicle warranties
• Wedding chapel and marriage-license office
• Voting booths on Election Day
You can reach David Barkholz at firstname.lastname@example.org. -- Follow David on and