Just as the U.S. auto industry was heading into a deep recession in 2008, Chevrolet dealer Marc Heitz opened a $20 million dealership in Norman, Okla., modeled after outfitter Bass Pro Shops.
The log building features a vehicle showroom with a 45-foot waterfall, a huge aquarium with big bass and local fish species and, to entertain kids, an arcade and imprints of animal tracks on the concrete floor.
Outside, bear and elk statues guard a giant picnic area, two dog runs, a cistern for collecting rainwater and a 110-foot wind generator that supplies 3 percent of the store's electricity.
Only one problem: General Motors says the store fails to comply with Chevrolet's new facilities standards.
To keep getting about $250,000 per quarter from GM in dealer-excellence incentives, Heitz said he would have to install that familiar blue cladding and gold bowtie on the facade of his building to make his store look like thousands of Chevrolet stores across the country. He would need to cover the animal tracks on the showroom floor with gray tile.
That's the word he received from Chevrolet sales chief Don Johnson after Heitz appealed for a compromise during Johnson's Sept. 28 visit to the store.
"It would be like putting socks on a rooster," said Heitz, 47, who grew up on a dairy farm in Norman.