Few dealerships violate local zoning codes because their buildings are too high.
After all, dealership facilities are far from skyscrapers.
But Bill Cook of Bill Cook Buick took some flak from the city of Farmington Hills, MI, when he planned to turn his dealership into Buick's sixth "flagship" store.
Part of the flagship look is a 42-foot-high clock tower, which at ground level contains a 24-hour information center for shoppers who can use a computer terminal to check on inventory, specifications and pricing.
But the clock tower plan violated the city's new ordinance restricting building heights. Mr. Cook persevered, and got a waiver to build the tower.
Since retrofitting his dealership into a flagship store about a year ago, Mr. Cook has become the Detroit market's top-selling Buick dealer - "after 20 years of trying."
The 20,000-sq.-ft. dealership now includes the usual flagship features such as a library, children's play area, information center and a community room for business and public events.
The remodeled facility has a lighter look than the old store as well as larger windows and a more modern interior.
Besides Buicks, Mr. Cook also sells six foreign brands - Audi, Lotus, Mazda, Nissan, Porsche and Volkswagen.
An alumnus of GM's Motors Holding Division, Mr. Cook, 55, says he foresaw the customer benefits of the flagship process when he began planning the project with Buick offi-cials in 1996.
Zimbrick Buick in Madison, WI, and Tom Kelley Buick in Fort Wayne, IN, ope-ned the first flagship stores in 1997.
Buick plans to open between 125-150 dedicated flagship dealerships in the next few years, says Roger Adams, marketing general manager.
He denies that the effort is in a slump. Instead, he says Buick is going ahead with the project while also taking time to review what's been done so far.
It's a learning experience, he says. What has Buick learned? "That's proprietary," says Mr. Adams.
NASHVILLE, IN - Historic bed and breakfasts, quaint inns and antique stores give charm to Brown County in southern Indiana.
It's a by-gone scene. But when a bunch of 2000 Dodge Dakota Quad Cabs rolled in, sleepy Brown County (pop. 10,000) got an eyeful of the brave new automotive world.
The new wave Quad Cabs are cross-over vehicles, which may carve out a new segment if they catch on. They feature the interior comforts of a car, the capabilities of a pickup and the ruggedness of an SUV.
DaimlerChrysler hosted a Quad Cab media ride-and-drive program in Brown County. It was a sight to see those thoroughly modern vehicles cruise down the old-fashioned main street of Nashville, an Indiana artist colony.
The all-new vehicle is first and foremost a pickup, say Dodge executives. But they hope it will win converts from the car and SUV crowds.
The Quad Cab is designed to appeal to people who are not traditional truck buyers, but always wanted one, says Dodge Division Vice President Jim Julow.
"There's an expanding market of people who in the past would not consider buying a truck," says Rich Ray, Dodge general product manager for truck operations.
He adds, "People are looking for a flexible conveniently sized truck. The family car traditionally had to do everything. Today, buyers are finding that a truck may do it better."
Full-size front-hinged rear doors with full roll-down windows offer easy access for passengers and cargo alike. Extended cabs have undergone considerable refinements as well as a 30% segment growth since 1993, says Mr. Julow. Seventy percent of Dakotas currently sold are extended cabs.
"We've maximized the utility of a compact pickup by combining the power and capability of a Dodge Dakota with six-passenger seating in a full four-door configuration," says Mr. Julow.
A shorter truck bed is the tradeoff for the extra interior room. The bed is just over five feet long.
But Dodge consumer research indicates compact truck customers use the full length of a standard 6.5-foot bed less than 10% of the time. Besides, the shorter bed is better for off-roading, say Dodge designers.
Quad Cab customers who want or need the extra cargo capacity can buy Mopar bed extenders that add 18 inches of bed space with the tailgate open.
The average car Dodge is equipped with $140 in Mopar aftermarket accessories; the average truck, $350.
Dodge estimates the average Quad Cab owner will pony up $500 for Mopar accessories, says Dodge spokesman Dave Elshoff.
The top three are expected to be bedliners, side steps and those bed extenders, he says.
Quad Cab competitors are the Nissan Frontier and newly introduced Ford Explorer Sports Trac, but the Quad is bigger than both, boasts Mike Gialdini, Dodge senior marketing manager.
Dodge expects to sell about 70,000 Quad Cabs a year at first, and expects half those sales to be new business.
Dodge minivan sales remain strong, but if minivan buyers start leaving that market in large numbers, "we want to keep them in the Dodge family," says Mr. Gialdini.
Soccer moms, meet the Quad Cab.