In light of the recession, Infiniti is softening its requirements for a store refurbishing design that it has been pushing for four years.
But it still wants dealers to make the upgrades, and now, a brand executive told dealers at a Las Vegas meeting last week. The revised plan will allow less expensive materials, smaller store dimensions and a more modest retrofit option.
Ben Poore, Infiniti Business Unit vice president, told dealers that "this is the right time" to begin updating the chain's looks, even though sales are down 36 percent in the first seven months of this year.
"We've taken a breather," Poore said in an interview before the national dealer meeting.
"We've been focused on investing in the business side of the dealership, and that has paid off for us. But moving forward, we do need to update our brand."
He said about 65 percent of the line's 180 dealerships are built to architectural standards established when Infiniti was launched in 1989.
"I think we've found a way to get them to refurbish in a way that makes sense," Poore said.
He said the revision was recommended by Infiniti's National Dealer Advisory Board. Dealers who attended the Las Vegas meeting said the revision will give retailers the option of crafting a new storefront onto their existing dealership rather than constructing a new building.
"It's one option," said Peter Wilson, owner of Infiniti of Orlando in Florida. "It's a softening of the plan in light of the market."
In April, Wilson moved into a new 45,000-square-foot store built to meet the original Infiniti Real Estate Design Initiative standards. He declined to say how much he spent, but he estimated the construction cost at $7 million to $12 million.
"Not everyone will want to build an all-new store, and they have some flexibility," Wilson said. "We did, and I'm pleased to report we've been profitable every month since we opened."