Rebranding for the Automotive Dealership of Tomorrow

How Dealerships Can Respond to Changing Customer Needs Without Breaking the Bank

Within the retail industry, brand recognition can make or break a business or corporation, no matter the size. This is especially true in the automotive industry, as OEMs periodically rejuvenate their brand image on a global, national, regional and local scale. The challenge with rebranding efforts is that companies must maintain the consistency of their brand image, which is widely recognized by their customer base, yet instill a change that not only supports current and future business objectives, but also responds to current retail trends, meets customer expectations, is flexible enough to adapt to the future, and responds to specific dealer operational requirements.

For the automotive industry, the landscape is evolving. When customers walk through the doors of a dealership, they expect more than ever before. They expect a seamless and no-hassle customer experience where digital and physical environments merge together. They expect technology solutions that support their needs: a place to plug-in and charge their smart phones and tablets; free wi-fi so they can browse while they wait; even self-checkout so customers can save precious time.

In response to these customer expectations and the behavioral changes that accompany them, the sales and service process must also evolve. More customers are doing their own web-based research before even entering a dealership. In addition, with longer intervals between services and less major service work required on vehicles, customers are visiting the dealerships less frequently. However, when they do visit, they are often waiting in-store instead of requiring a loaner vehicle.

The sales and service process, and the facilities that support them, must respond to these behavioral changes. Incorporation of self-service kiosks in the dealership can help customers pick up right where they left off at home. When planning the size/location of customer lounges and supporting amenities, this potential increase in lounge space requirements should be considered. Forethought must be put into the design and construction of facilities, allowing the ability for dealers to transition and adapt with customer behavior.

The challenge for OEMs and dealers is to respond to these trending customer demands, yet to do so in a cost-effective way that both preserves the brand image and supports future business initiatives. They must find new and innovative ways to not only draw customers to the dealership, but also to increase in-store customer engagement. The dealership environment must meet the demands of the current retail customer, but be flexible enough to adapt to future business initiatives and changing retail trends.

While the successful implementation of a rebranding program can be challenging, the support of a program management company can prove to be very beneficial, providing a unique set of skills and technical knowledge that can support both the OEM and the dealer, while bringing a renewed excitement around the brand. These skills include:

  • Scope management – keeping the scope flexible where necessary to support specific dealer requirements and budget, but still within the framework of the program objectives
  • Quality management – delivering the required quantitative results to the OEM while maintaining the desired qualitative results for companies unaccustomed to the built environment
  • Cost management –maintaining consistent and industry-competitive cost levels and providing value engineering ideas that reduce construction cost without compromising the brand image
  • Time management –optimizing project delivery times without increasing the risk or impacting the quality of the program or project
  • Risk management – identifying potential risks and putting action plans in place to mitigate these risks

Program managers provide services that extend much farther than the construction site. They can serve as trusted advisors during “big picture” business strategy collaboration periods by helping the OEM understand how design and construction specifications may need to be modified to support a new product lines or new sales / service processes. For example, more wide-ranging and innovative products are available today as OEMs branch out to various customer bases, such as electric vehicles. The key is that the design and construction of facilities must support both current and future products. Through the integration of infrastructure and “future proofing”, this forethought can help OEMs provide the means necessary to support the sales and service of new products and help dealers avoid unnecessary costs in the future.

A program manager helps protect the brand, while still catering to unique circumstances specific to an individual dealer. By understanding local code requirements, design and permit processes, the program manager helps to communicate and interpret brand requirements within the specific dealer conditions, responding to regional conditions that might be restrictive. This in turn allows for a customized retail experience specific to market conditions, while at the same time delivering a consistent brand image in the eyes of the consumer.

The beginning-to-end involvement of a strong program manger brings a hierarchical balance of consultancy (improving business performance), delivery (managing delivery of individual projects), and operations (maximizing the performance of asset portfolios) to better manage and mitigate risk inherent within the built environment.

Turner & Townsend is a professional services organization that provides consultancy, delivery, operations and program management services at global, regional, and local scales to businesses that in invest in, own and operate assets. For more information please visit

Michael Bowen


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