U.S. Mercedes-Benz dealerships are getting upgrades, ranging from cosmetic surgery to all-new new multi-million dollar facilities.
It is part of Mercedes-Benz USA's Auto Haus project that aims for a refined, clean look for outlets selling the German luxury brand's vehicles.
“The Auto Haus dealerships are similar to our big factory stores in Germany,” says Mercedes spokesman Rob Moran.
Architectural elements include a generous use of glass and steel for an “industrial” look. Common design cues are blue tones, consistent signage, a welcome area and exclusive showrooms.
“It's not a cookie-cutter approach, but we wanted a Mercedes consistency,” Moran says. “Some stores, more than others, had more to do.”
He says many dealers, despite the poor economy, agreed to participate in the program. The auto maker is providing incentives.
By the end of this year, 300 of the 350 Mercedes dealers in the U.S. will have upgraded or rebuilt their stores, says Ernst Lieb, president and CEO of MBUSA.
The import company saw sales fall 50% in 2009, “but we didn't panic,” he says. Still, he recalls “opening up some unpleasant emails from Germany.”
Recent sales numbers show signs of a recovery. Lieb anticipates dealers will return to healthy sales and profits, but might not make as much money as in the past boon years.
During the downturn, Mercedes dealers adjusted their cost structures, focused on service retention and made their used-car operations more professional, says Steve Cannon, MBUSA's vice president-marketing.