LOS ANGELES -- Jared Hardin knew he had a problem in 2008 when he noticed long lines at the single unisex bathroom in his teeny Hyundai dealership in Garden Grove, Calif.
But it was the kind of problem a car dealer likes to have. Because of Hyundai's fresh product lineup and brisk uptick in sales, Hardin needed a new store and a better location.
Not only was there just one bathroom, but the store was in a bad part of town, says Hardin, 33. "It was run-down, built in the late '60s -- a one-car showroom."
Hardin's situation is not an anomaly. Dave Zuchowski, sales chief at Hyundai Motor America, says improving dealership images and sales processes will be the No. 1 priority at Hyundai this year.
"We have the product and brand under control," Zuchowski says. "Now we have to clean up our dealerships and give our customers the first-class treatment they deserve."
Zuchowski doesn't want his dealers to spend a ton of money on showrooms and does not plan to add to the brand's 780 store count. So the plan is either to acquire first-rate stores in good locations that have been abandoned by other brands or to encourage experienced dealers to purchase existing Hyundai stores. Last year Hyundai had 70 such transactions.
Zuchowski also cites Hardin's new Garden Grove store, about a mile or two from the old store in a motor mall that includes Toyota, Nissan, Chevy and Volkswagen stores. The new showroom is seen easily from a nearby freeway; the old store wasn't easily accessible from freeways and was the sole dealership on a strip that does not have high-profile businesses that draw a lot of customers.