While much of the auto industry is laying off workers, Peterson Autoplex in Boise, ID, is hiring new employees.
A lot of the credit goes to Boise's current population boom and the dealership's new state-of-the-art body shop.
The 16,000-sq.-ft. (1,440-sq m) facility was designed with efficiency in mind. From the extra lighting on the walls and ceiling to the flow of the shop itself, the layout is intended to let workers save time while increasing productivity.
There are two drive-through paint booths. The original 1-booth operation wasn't a drive-through, causing jam ups, recalls Scott Jackson, fixed operations manager.
“Not only were (the employees) fighting over who got the paint booth first, but when that particular car was ready, we had to move cars out of the way,” Jackson says.
“The way we're set up now, we can line up the cars as we're prepping them, and we can pull them into the booth,” he says. When the car is ready, we continue to drive through the booth to the outside, so it prevents all that lost time of moving cars out of the way to get one car out of the booth.”
“(Buying a vehicle) is actually the second-largest investment people make, and you have to make sure cars are repaired to quality. The only way to do that is to have the proper technology,” Kevin Tyler, body shop manager, says.
High-powered lighting along the walls and ceiling illuminates the shop, allowing workers “to see the quality of their work much better,” Jackson says.
It's little things that provide the biggest comfort to body shop employees. In the old facility, estimators did their work behind a single counter. In the new shop, each has a private office. Visiting adjusters have their own space, too.
The new place has much more storage space.
“In the old facility, we really didn't have any space to put parts we ordered for cars,” says Jackson. “In the new facility, we actually have a parts room where we can deliver the parts and store them so they're secure.”
Peterson Autoplex also added a lounge area for waiting customers, complete with new furniture.
“The old facility was pretty cramped for space,” says Jackson. “There really wasn't a good area for customers to sit and wait.”
The dealership converted its former 7,600-sq.-ft (684-sq m) body shop into a BMW showroom. The new body shop was built on a nearby vacant lot. That took $2 million and 24 months.
Since the new shop opened last June, President Mark Peterson says he has seen numbers soar.
“We've seen our business grow, and every month we set a new record,” says Peterson, third-generation owner of the family-operated dealership that dates to 1928. “Over the last year, we're up about 35%-40%.”
Peterson Autoplex ranks 149th in this year's Ward's Dealer 500, with $136,181,681 in total revenue. The body shop's revenue for 2006 totaled $1,785,473.
The key to success is for dealership departments to work together, Peterson says.
“That's the whole secret of it,” he says. “The reason we've been successful is because we have a really big customer base just by buying and servicing cars. Service and sales works hand in hand.”