Dealership Design: Q&A with Justin Ross
Fairfield Hyundai car dealership with clear blue sky in background

Franchisees nationwide are in the process of updating their dealerships to comply with dealer re-imaging programs. There are corporate guidelines for everything from site layout, floor plans, signage, lighting, furniture, and finishes. Involving an architect and engineer early on can avoid headaches down the road.

Here’s a Q&A with Justin Ross, PE, on what to consider when re-imaging your dealership.

WHAT ARE SOME OF THE CHALLENGES THAT FRANCHISEES FACE WHEN UPGRADING THEIR PROPERTY AND/OR BUILDING?

Dealerships are franchise-driven. As a result, the owner is not always in the driver’s seat when it comes to meeting corporate standards on building enhancements or expansions. It can take a decent chunk of change, possibly millions of dollars, to meet standards for upgrades, remodels, or a new site. Corporate guidelines may be so specific that it can be nearly impossible to customize them to meet the individual dealer’s needs. A dealer may be able to temporarily delay a remodel to preserve capital, but eventually progress becomes inevitable. On the other hand, some dealers may volunteer to make improvements as they know it will increase their sales, which increases the volume of service and warranty work—the true heart of the business.

WHAT TYPE OF CONSULTING DO I NEED (ARCHITECTURE, ENGINEER, CONTRACTOR..)?

You will need all three for a successful project. This is why we see a big portion of the industry going to the design-build delivery method. LDG provides architecture and engineering and employs construction estimators and inspectors. Our connections to qualified contractors allow us to make recommendations as needed when formal cost estimating and/or value engineering is critical. LDG offers full-service expertise; we pride ourselves on having an in-house expert in all areas of the architecture and engineering process. This equates to quick, reliable answers on any issues that arise along the way.

HOW CAN AN ARCHITECT OR ENGINEER HELP THROUGH THIS PROCESS?

An architect and engineer can guide you through the corporate prototype, helping you create a facility that is both brand compliant and customized to your needs. Each year, permitting and environmental regulations becomes more and more complicated. We may not agree with it or like it, but developing a project is significantly more complicated today than 10 years ago. What does this mean to a client? More time and money, which, if not clearly defined early on, can lead to unrealistic expectations, financial strains, and project headaches.

What are some key things to keep in mind during the design process?

Technology is changing the world we live in. Much like the changes in the auto industry related to alternative fueled vehicles and driver-less technology, our industry is being revolutionized by 3D imagery and virtual reality.

1) Visualizing a plan can be difficult for many people. One of the benefits of technology is it allows us to bring the 2D world to life. The last thing we want is for someone to invest in a project and see it for the first time when it is completed. The folks at LDG are evolving visualization programs that will immerse clients in to the design, allowing constant feedback throughout the design process.

2) Feel comfortable having difficult conversations. When you have contractor bids and are making the decision of who to trust with your big investment, you should ultimately decide based on the question, “Who do you feel you will be most comfortable having tough conversations with?” Humans are not robots, and it is inevitable that something will go askew. Having the right person on your side when that happens will contribute to the project’s success.

what is your role as project manager?

As project manager, my role is to immerse myself into the client’s business to understand how they operate, what is important to them, and the challenges they face. With this knowledge, I can help answer questions and guide them to make the best decision for their organization. This boils down to honest conversations that set realistic expectations. Anyone can paint a rosy picture at the onset and push problems down the road to avoid difficult conversations. It’s my goal to lay all the chips on the table and support the client in order to make the best decisions. We may have to make some assumptions along the way or take calculated risks in order to maintain schedules, but that is where our industry experience and knowledge truly become an asset to the client.

A sample of the services LDG can provide for your dealership are:

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