Trevor Gile's response to the recession? A massive, high-end car wash.
His unlikely, almost bizarre response worked. And it led to an approach that continues for Gile today: find new revenue streams as the dealership of the future evolves.
The initial goal for Gile, then general manager at Motorcars Honda, of Cleveland Heights, Ohio, was to stay engaged with customers even if they weren't in the market for a vehicle.
"We started looking at all the other revenue streams that go outside the dealership that are tied to when people interact with us," Gile said. "If we kept them going to our service or our car washes, there was a way for us to stay in front of them."
Motorcars Honda and Motorcars Toyota — the other Motorcars store location operated by Gile's father and his brother — already had small car wash setups at the time. But Gile, now 39, knew these weren't providing top-quality service, and that service and quality were critical to maintaining business.
The first car wash opened just down the road from the dealership, with a rainforest theme. A Disney-styled Tree of Life rock wall in front of it added to the visual allure.
Surprisingly, Gile found that after making the investment in the car washes, the dealership's water bill substantially decreased and employee costs went down.
The new system was more water-efficient than the prior, outdated one. And the store no longer had to hire valets to run the cars through the wash. Instead, vehicles went on a fully automated conveyor belt, requiring the attention of only two employees per shift.