Penske Automotive Group in late March said it would postpone $150 million in capital expenditures this year. CEO Roger Penske said in July that the company could reduce spending on cosmetic items such as signage, wall colors, furniture and flooring.
"I just think under these conditions, not knowing where we are, I think the manufacturers understand that and are being very realistic," Penske said.
Multiple dealership executives said several brands relaxed schedules for complying with image requirements during the pandemic.
"We have paused adding any new requirements for the facility image program and postponed compliance audits for existing dealerships, enabling our dealers to focus on their business during these uncertain times," a General Motors spokeswoman wrote in an email.
Swickard Auto Group has several projects under development, said Greg Gates, the group's vice president of business transformation. They include an image upgrade at a BMW dealership in Eugene, Ore., and new buildings at some of the group's 14 other locations to create more space, he said. All of the projects will be image-compliant when completed.
The group paused its projects for about 60 days to assess the pandemic's impact on business and consumer behavior. The market rebound prompted the group to resume planning in May and June.
"Without a doubt, though, all of the manufacturers across the board have all been extraordinarily accommodating and understanding," said Gates, who previously worked on image programs for Mercedes-Benz USA as general manager of strategic retail development.
Projects that didn't yet have shovels in the ground were more likely to be postponed, architects and contractors that work on dealership facilities told Automotive News, though some states restricted all nonessential construction activity early on.
In Ohio, a Porsche store was the only one of a half- dozen makeover projects for Renier Construction that was paused, said Bill Heifner, the Columbus company's chairman.
"Other than one project, I haven't seen any significant loss of confidence in the dealers that we serve," he said.
Given the uncertainty around the pandemic and the upcoming presidential election, "the smaller, more risk-averse folks are just taking the sit-and-wait approach," said Steve Ellis, director of design for PRO Building Systems, an Atlanta firm that primarily works with private dealership groups in the Southeast.