About 30 more dealerships nationwide will adopt Mazda's “Retail Revolution” new design look by early next year, with another 35 to follow soon after, says James O'Sullivan, president and CEO of Mazda North American Operations (MNAO).
Since the first such store opened (Bountiful Mazda in Bountiful, UT) in early 2003, five more have followed. The latest is Sterling Mazda, moving to its new digs in Sterling Heights, MI, in July.
The “Retail Revolution” is a plan to reconfigure Mazda's dealership network. Not looking to add to its 700 U.S. dealerships, O'Sullivan says the drive is toward more exclusive franchises in a modern, uniform setting.
By the end of 2007, more than 50% of Mazda's dealerships will be exclusive — up from 19% 18 months ago.
The brand is starting to gain traction. Sales are up 18% this year. “We're doing that selling cars, not SUVs,” says O'Sullivan.
George Ewing, Sterling's general manager, says of the new store, “The atmosphere here is fast, fun and cool. It is a unique environment. “Its high-profile image will attract more people.”
Ewing says the dealership will adopt some new processes to fit the new environment. ‘We'll have a more laid-back approach here,” he says. For instance, sales people can sit with customers in the mCafe and discuss the transaction over coffee and cookies — a process that customers should find less intimidating than sitting in a salesperson's sterile office.
A Sony Playstation 2 system, complete with steering wheel controllers, also in the cafe, allows customers to race Mazda RX-8 coupes against each other or other online players.
One of the overriding features is the technology, Ewing says. Five Internet stations set up around the showroom allow customers to compare Mazda vehicles with other brands using Edmunds.com or Kelley Blue Book's website. Customers also can check out the dealership's inventory, accessorize their vehicles and check e-mail.
“Dealerships normally do not make it easy for customers to compare other brands,” says Ewing. “We want to create an experience that is friendly for the customer.”
The design creates an open-air, industrial-type atmosphere. Aluminum gray walls are offset by fluorescent green, blue and orange colors throughout the dealership. The three offices in the back of the showroom are open and do not have doors.
A red Miata convertible on a platform in front of a wind tunnel fan is the first thing customers encounter upon entering the showroom.
The new dealership is a welcome change for Ewing, who admits the construction phase was a bit messy. “There were days when we didn't have air conditioning or heat,” he says. There also was a 3-month period the dealership had to have port-a-johns outside because the restrooms were unavailable.
The dealership averaged 40 new sales a month before construction started. Ewing expects to double that number. “It really is a shot of adrenaline for us,” he says.