Auto dealers who want to expand their stores need two things: cash and patience.
Building showrooms or carving out more space at an existing site almost always involves growing pains, say dealers who have experienced the process. Whether it's meeting zoning and licensing rules or finding the right people for new jobs, they can count on delays, red tape and surprises.
When Paul MacDonald sought to reopen a closed Lincoln-Mercury dealership next to his Mazda store in Bountiful, Utah, Ford Motor Co. officials initially were reluctant.
"Based on their market research, they were planning to move that point farther north," MacDonald says. "But when they sent people out here to look at the area, they agreed that the (present) location would work."
Bountiful Lincoln-Mercury opened in May. First, though, MacDonald had to bring the building up to code. He installed sprinklers, improved access for visitors with disabilities and complied with state air quality standards.
"It took 45 days longer than we had hoped because of all the paperwork," he says.
Bruce Belzowski, an assistant research scientist at the University of Michigan's Office for the Study of Automotive Transportation, says dealers who seek to expand must address several "key drivers." They include zoning regulations, factory approvals and financing, Belzowski says.
"Dealers in larger groups may be more in tune with the need to expand or update," Belzowski says.