As showroom traffic plunged, some innovative dealers found new ways to use their facilities and promote their products.
Trying something different
Rather than sing the blues about sales, Los Angeles area Volvo and Infiniti dealer Steve Lapin leads The Lapdogs, a rock group that includes four of his employees.
Mercedes dealer George Grinzewitsch Jr. opened a high-end restaurant inside his store in the Sacramento suburb of Rocklin, Calif. The little bistro by the Benzes offers fare such as Kobe sliders, salmon Nicoise salads and pan-roasted half-chickens -- not to mention an enlightened wine list.
When he was photographed in July at his Clarkston, Mich., dealership, Chuck Fortinberry had just launched a NAPA parts and service business that he hoped would help replace revenues from the Chrysler and Jeep franchises he lost. But in October, Fortinberry ran out of time and money and closed his doors.
Chesterfield, Mo., dealer Jim Lynch turned most of his Hummer showroom into a high-end armory. "I had to do something," Lynch said. "The Hummer business just wasn't going to pay for this building."