How (and Why) to Go Green at Your Dealership in 2015
Like most auto dealers, you’ve probably got a lot on your plate in the coming year. The economic recovery has provided a boost for car sales, and most dealerships are hoping to continue that momentum through 2015.
But with all the items on your to-do list, have you also considered making your dealership more environmentally friendly? It might seem frivolous, but in fact, making your business greener could boost sales and save you money, as well as help the planet.
The Benefits to Your Business
In recent years, there has been a paradigm shift in consumers’ concern for the environment. Not only are the majority of people interested in products that are more environmentally friendly, recent research shows that nearly half of consumers are even willing to pay more for green products.
What does this mean for your dealership? More prospective car buyers are researching their choices, online and through their social networks, before they walk into a dealership. Not only are they looking for the perfect car, they want to find the dealer who can give them the best service, and who reflects their values.
If you distinguish yourself as an environmental leader among auto dealers, this can give you a competitive edge. The auto industry hasn’t always had the best reputation in regard to the environment. Your dealership can combat this stereotype with business practices and a philosophy that show your commitment.
The first step, as always, is making sure your dealership complies with all local laws and regulations, including applicable environmental regulations, and that you inspire trust in your customers by staying up-to-date with all the relevant licenses and bonds.
Some dealerships have already taken an environmentally sensitive approach. For example, Lost Pines Toyota in central Texas has earned Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design (LEED) Certification from the U.S. Green Building Council by greening its entire operation, right down to the coffee cups.
Heavy insulation cuts down the need for climate control, and timers control the lot lights at night, reducing the dealership’s nighttime light pollution by 80%. The dealership also collects runoff from its air conditioning units to water outdoor plants, and handles contracts and internal communication electronically to save paper.
Not only has LEED Certification created a valuable marketing asset for Lost Pines, but these measures have saved it energy and money, as well.
It Can Be Easy Being Green
Your dealership doesn’t need a complete remodel to start implementing green practices, however. Some dealerships start small, with office supplies and coffee cups made from recycled materials. Better yet, create incentives for your employees to go paperless, and offer branded, reusable mugs instead of paper cups in the break room. It’s relatively simple to replace incandescent light bulbs with more efficient fluorescents, and you can save even more electricity by installing motion sensors and dimmers to minimize unnecessary light use.
For your next event, you can boost your green reputation and save some money by using fewer disposable decorations like balloons, confetti, or streamers. Some dealerships have permanently replaced these displays with hanging plants. This could also be a chance to market your green efforts to customers by advertising your new environmental practices on social media.
If you’re ready for a bigger change, there are plenty of possibilities that affect everything from water consumption to climate control. For example, many dealerships have drafty, floor-to-ceiling windows, which can drive up heating costs. Installing energy-efficient windows, or treating your existing windows with insulation film, is a green move that will save you some green, as well.
Tailor Your Efforts to Your Community
Consumers aren’t just looking for an auto dealer that cares about the planet. They’re looking for an auto dealer that cares about their community as well.
Of course, you should implement green practices in ways that make the most sense for your climate zone. For example, if your state is prone to drought, switch to hand-washing cars or invest in a greywater recycling system. Community-focused practices can also mean smaller actions, like making sure your dealership beautifies the surrounding area. After you reduce noise and light pollution, for example, you can then partner with other local businesses to showcase your work for the environment.
Patriot Subaru, of Saco, Maine, is a dealership that’s found creative ways to go green. It composts all its food waste, and uses it to grow an organic vegetable garden right on the car lot. The vegetables are served at Patriot’s Saturday picnics, a great way to connect with customers and promote the dealership.
Is your dealership going green to better connect with your customers? If not, you may be missing an opportunity to save money, boost sales, build customer loyalty . . . and help preserve the planet.
Vic Lance is the founder and president of Lance Surety Bond Associates. He is a surety bond expert who helps auto dealers get licensed and bonded. Vic graduated from Villanova University with a degree in business administration and holds an MBA from the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business.