Dealers and the factory are not far apart on the need for dealership renovations, but the semantics can be a mile wide.
A panel of three automaker representatives and the outgoing NADA chairman debated factory demands for dealership improvements during the J.D. Power International Automotive Roundtable here. NADA's position: There might be no better time for facility changes than the present -- with some limitations.
"I believe [the factory] is well intended, but I need to look at what I can get for a good return on investment," said Stephen Wade, president of Stephen Wade Auto Center in St. George, Utah, which holds 16 franchises. For the most part, Wade's dealer colleagues do not see an increase in volume to match their capital investments.
"We shouldn't be selling out of the back of a service station. But from there, whew, I don't think one size fits all. We don't need cookie-cutter franchises," Wade said, "in Nome and in Miami with the same tile."
Alan Batey, vice president of Chevrolet sales and service, said his brand "did not go out and say, 'You need to fix this.'"
Batey said Chevrolet's facilities program "is not mandatory, and the dealer can decide to opt in" -- which prompted eye-rolling from some dealers.
Dealers are spending $2 billion on the new network "to reflect new GM and new Chevy," he said. "We are positioning them to be more profitable."
Reid Bigland, Chrysler Group's head of U.S. sales and the Dodge brand, said that customer satisfaction improvements are as important as facilities renovations.
He denounced explicit factory facility requirements as "crazy-ass stuff that drives people crazy."
Dave Zuchowski, executive vice president of sales for Hyundai Motor America, said his brand's program can achieve guideline-specific renovations for less than $1 million per store.
The space should be "welcoming and comfortable, not a Taj Mahal." c