After several years of post-recession revenue growth, Dick Hannah Honda – under the umbrella of Dick Hannah Dealerships – has pulled the trigger on a multi-million dollar remodel of its Vancouver dealership, located at 3321 Northeast Auto Mall Drive.
The remodel, according to Corporate General Manager Marty Green, includes a complete redesign of the dealership’s interior – from its overall layout to signage and lighting.
“We’re getting very customer-focused,” he said. “For instance, on the showroom floor we’re taking down the walls and making it more open for the customer so they feel more comfortable.”
Other changes include new paint and tile in the showroom, and additional windows to increase the amount of natural light. Green expects the company to receive Honda’s award for environmentally-friendly dealerships as a result of the project.
“Whenever we have the chance to make those kinds of [environmentally-friendly] upgrades, we do,” he said.
The project began late last year and is expected to be complete by May. Design work was performed by Portland-based LRS Architects and construction is being completed by Perlo, which is also based in Portland.
Spotlight on service
Despite sweeping changes to the showroom, that isn’t the primary focus of the project, said Kent VanArnam, director of marketing.
“The driving force of the remodel is to expand the service department and specifically what we call ‘Service Express,’” he said. “Most of the services that any dealership does requires an appointment – dropping off the car or having to wait for an extended period of time – but what people like is fast service. Up until now we really haven’t been built to accommodate that.”
Expansion of the service area includes the installation of a third drive-in bay (currently, the dealership has two), which is expected to significantly reduce customer wait times. A larger customer lounge is also planned.
VanArnam said Dick Hannah Honda is uniquely positioned to grow its market share within the auto service industry because it will be able to offer speed coupled with factory-trained service techs.
“Consumers have a choice. They can go to a quick oil lube place like a Jiffy Lube or an Oil Can Henry’s, and they typically do a pretty good job when it comes to oil changes. What they don’t have is specific factory training,” he explained. “So what happens sometimes is someone will request an oil change and we may discover something else that we can make them aware of. It could be a notice from the manufacturer, or something along those lines.”
Additionally, VanArnam said, dealership service centers are attractive to customers because dealerships have access to specific tooling that isn’t available elsewhere. Also, he said, some customers just want to take their Honda vehicle to a place that specializes in Hondas.
“That’s not to say we can’t work on other brands, but so often people will drive their car to a specific factory dealership that matches the make of what they’re driving,” he said.
The expansion from two to three drive-in service bays is a first for any of the Dick Hanna dealerships.
Timing is everything
If you were to ask Jason and Jennifer Hannah, the company’s vice presidents who are tasked with running the business, the Honda remodel would have been completed years ago. The decision to pull the trigger on it now, said Green, illustrates the company’s confidence in the local economy.
“We held this off [due to the recession],” he said. “Today, the economy is certainly a lot better. Is it at 2006/2007 levels? Maybe not, but it is certainly a lot better than it was. We’ve seen a good sales pace in all of our stores, so now that we feel comfortable we’re moving forward.”
Choosing to invest millions of dollars in a local remodel also reaffirms Dick Hannah Dealerships’ commitment to the Vancouver community, Green noted.
“Vancouver is a great place,” he said. “I’ve been at the store for 24 years. I remember when this area was a bunch of fields. We’ve added the dealerships and I think we’ve provided good service. There’s the tax base from the cars we sell, and all of the employees – we have 800 or 900 employees now. We love the area and I think we provide a great service for Vancouver.”
Knowing the complexity of today’s vehicles, dealerships are committing resources to training, tools and certifications. But according to Kent VanArnam, director of marketing for Dick Hannah Honda, the industry is experiencing a skills gap. Specifically, he said, there’s a major shortage of employees with mechanical skills.
“Right now we have many, many open positions for people who have a mechanical aptitude,” said VanArnam. “This is true not only with Dick Hannah Dealerships, but this is something that auto dealers in virtually every market are experiencing right now. We have more business, but not enough skilled workers to fill positions.”
At press time, there were 31 job openings listed on the Dick Hannah Dealerships website.