Austin Subaru is on a green streak — and that's fitting for the dealership's market in the bustling, youthful hometown of the University of Texas at Austin.
The store's environmental initiatives are resonating in the state capital and home of the annual SXSW arts and technology festival, said Will Hardeman, the store's managing partner.
In May, the dealership embarked on a major initiative to install solar panels. In addition to helping the store bond with younger and more economically aware customers, the investment is bringing down the store's operating expenses.
"This is very fashionable and trendy in the Austin market," Hardeman said of green commercial solutions in general. "We've been looking at it for a few years now. I think that with advances insolar panel technology and associated costs coming down, it's become more economically viable for us.
"We see it as a way to invest in the future," he said. "It might cost some money upfront, but we're actually locking in our energy prices in a market where energy prices only go up. Eventually, it could become a competitive advantage for our dealership."
It took three weeks to install the 240-kilowatt system, with 670 solar panels placed on the roof. The total cost came to about $500,000, Hardeman said.
"It's part of an overall package to express our commitment to our community," Hardeman told Automotive News. The technology transition was simple, he added.
"It's basically set it and forget it," Hardeman said of the new system.
The energy cost savings already are proving significant, he said. The solar panels have helped lower the dealership's energy bill from $10,000 a month to $3,000 to $4,000 now.
The store received local energy rebates and tax rebates as a result of the investment.
"It was really a no-brainer once you factor in all of the different income streams," Hardeman said. "When you factor all that in, the project becomes a five-year payoff. That's an easy yes."