Hallmarks of the new stores are a two-story "jewel box" that includes a Mazda vehicle lifted high above the showroom floor; a canopied "drive center" holding road-test-ready vehicles; a coffee bar that Mazda calls its "mCafe"; and a showroom floor with plenty of space and just a few display vehicles.
Green interior colors that spill over onto a corrugated-steel exterior and orange signs are meant to make the dealerships stand out, Mendel says. Service doors are brought up front in the new dealerships. The idea is to catch the attention of drivers who speed by buildings that are less interesting.
"We've gone to a different palette to give us what we call 30-mile-an-hour branding," he says
On the showroom floor, computer modules allow potential buyers to grab independent information from sites such as Edmunds.com or access the dealership's inventory to see what cars are available.
So-called "customer safe" areas, including the mCafe, give buyers a retreat where salespeople can't follow unless invited, and the sales floor is open so customers don't feel cornered.
Says Michael MacDonald, owner of Bountiful Mazda in Bountiful, Utah: "When somebody first walks into our store, it doesn't feel like our traditional showroom. People come in and they think it's kind of a cool place."
MacDonald's 20,000-square-foot, $1.8 million dealership was one of the first prototypes for the Retail Revolution concept. He says with the new open design, which also has his office directly on the sales floor, he sees customers come in without becoming defensive.
"The design of the store is very open, very nonthreatening," MacDonald says. "People walk into our showroom and I don't get this, 'We're just looking' (reaction). Very few people walk in and just blow off our salespeople."
On the other hand, MacDonald takes issue with the idea that the focus on test drives is some kind of rocket science.
"Any dealer will tell you a good test drive is critical to selling a car," he says.
What excites MacDonald about the new dealership is the sales floor availability of information from independent sources, such as Edmunds.com. That keeps potential buyers from leaving by allowing them to get pricing information and independent reviews with they're right next to a new car.
"Selling cars was the art of holding back information, hiding information you didn't want customers to know," he says. "In this day and age, customers know. Third party information is very critical."
Bountiful is one of four of the new dealerships in operation. The others are in Austin, Texas; Birmingham, Ala.; and Columbus, Ohio. A fifth, in Sterling Heights, Mich., is scheduled to open its redesigned showroom in early spring. Another 15 Retail Revolution dealerships are expected to be completed this year.
Mazda will not discuss the cost of specific dealership renovations, but estimates the overall price at $70 to $80 per square foot. For a typical Mazda dealership of 17,000 to 20,000 square feet, that would be $1.2 million to $1.6 million. The company is assisting some dealers making the transition, depending on factors it calculates in a proprietary business model, but Mazda caps its aid at $300,000.
"We've come up with a program that will assist dealers up to 35 percent of construction costs, with a cap at a maximum amount, depending on whether it's an exclusive facility," Mendel says.