Here's what dealer Jim Lynch heard when he presented General Motors' blueprints for a new Hummer dealership to his city's planning and zoning commission: "There's no way you are building anything like that around here."
Lynch of Chesterfield, Mo., is among 45 Hummer dealers nationwide who are running into resistance to comply with GM's design requirements for exclusive stores.
GM's proposal features a building with a curved steel corrugated roof that mimics the style of World War II Quonset huts. The design includes a large steel "H" in the facade that doubles as the doorway.
A new store could cost between $1.5 million and $6 million, depending on real estate prices, square footage and construction costs.
The design of the Lynch Hummer store, above, does not include the large steel "H" in the facade that GM wants, below. Instead, the dealership name appears.
This comes at a time when Hummer sales are cooling off and the automaker has cut production. Sales of the H2 - on the market only two years - totaled 17,420 through August, down 21.4 percent from the year-ago total of 22,154.
Meeting GM's deadline has not been easy for Lynch. Satisfying local planning and zoning authorities, who demanded changes in the roof, facade and parking lot, delayed him nearly a year. The new store, Lynch says, will have a more conventional-looking roof and a red brick facade.
"We will be open in March, but it is going to be a real push," Lynch says.
Although he's satisfied with the compromise reached with the city, he is disappointed because the store won't have the tough in-your-face look that suits the Hummer brand.
"It's the right look for Hummer," Lynch says of the concept. "It's a strong, rugged look. I wanted to build the building they wanted."
In April GM said that dealers who don't have their new stores open by the 2005 deadline would see fewer or none of the upcoming H3, a lower-priced mid-sized SUV that is expected to be a volume seller.
The H3, based on the underpinnings of the Canyon/Colorado pickup, hits dealerships in late summer 2005 or fall 2005 as a 2006 model. A truck version of the H3 is due the following year.
But Hummer has softened its stance for dealers who are trying in good faith to build their stores, says Marc Hernandez, Hummer's director of dealer integration. "We will give a hall pass to dealers who have tried and can't comply in time," he says.
GM also is allowing plenty of flexibility on the outside design of the stores, but not on the inside of the store, which will be identical.
Fitzpatrick Hummer of Concord, Calif., dumped the Quonset hut look. Its store will feature a Mission-style look that blends with traditional Southwestern architecture. "GM has given us some latitude on the styling of the building," says Jan Yakubisin, Concord Hummer sales manager.
Hernandez says allowing dealers to veer from the original dealership concept accomplishes Hummer's goal of getting its stores built in the best locations.
"Do we throw the baby out with the bath water, or do we accept changes and get the dealer in the right location?" he asks. "I would rather have a facility that is not the same or is different in some way in order to get the right dealer in the right location."
Hernandez says Hummer expected some resistance to the architecture.
"Odds are you are going to have to go before a zoning board and get a variance," he says. "From that standpoint, everyone has had some issue."
A few Hummer dealers have refused to invest in a new store. They face losing their franchises, Hernandez says.
"Five to eight stores are completely off track, giving us signals that they have no intention to build new dealerships," he says. "We are not going to let them dictate how the enterprise moves forward."