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The Innovation Award: Motorcars Honda

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Without an idea from a salesperson, Motorcars Honda may not have become the first carbon neutral dealership in the world.

Every Tuesday, the department heads of Motorcars Honda share new ideas for the future of the company that they came up with or were brought to them by their employees. Motorcars encourages all of its employees to share ideas and help move the dealership forward, explains Trevor Gile, managing partner of the Cleveland Heights, Ohio-based dealership.

The idea for using solar panels on the roof of the dealership’s parking garage was brought up roughly three years ago by a salesperson looking for a solution to all of the snow that seeped in and damaged vehicles. This idea, with input from the entire team, catapulted the dealership to worldwide media coverage, a partnership with BP and the company’s Carbon Neutral Award in 2016—proving that one person really can make a difference.

“Once people realize that they can share ideas, it opens doors,” Gile says.

Building off the solar panel idea, employees came to management with the idea to tint the windows to help control the temperature more efficiently and to offer the option to use bikes as a way to get around. Together, these ideas have come together to create Motorcars’ reputation as a green dealership and have helped brand it as the “dealership of the future,” according to Gile.

It’s not just its socially conscious approach to business that have helped make Motorcars Honda the winner of FIXED’s first-ever Innovation Award. It’s the forward-thinking culture that the Gile family has created within their dealership. It’s the way that they look outside of their own walls for additional revenue streams. It’s the processes that they’ve put in place that have kept work in house. And, above all, it’s the innovative spirit that they’ve encouraged at every level with their staff.

A Sharing Environment

“Create an experience that customers aren’t expecting,” Gile says.

This has been one of the pillars of the foundation for Motorcars’ success. With extended service hours, a drive-thru coffee shop, 335 kW solar canopy and a kid’s dealership, Motorcars Honda is not the typical dealership experience. Instead, it looks beyond what’s going on at the moment and anticipates what its customer will want in the future.

“Seventy percent of our hires are millennials,” Gile says. “They want to work for socially responsible companies. They’ve done the research. They know what they’re doing.”

At every level, staff is encouraged to share ideas. Whether it’s a new marketing approach or a new process, Motorcars Honda is always receptive to ideas.

Ahead of the Trend

“If we don’t remain innovative, our margins will be squeezed,” Gile says about the thought process behind his dealership’s success.

Dealerships, according to Gile, will continue to have margins squeezed unless revenue streams are recaptured, which is exactly what Motorcars Honda did.

“We looked at the main areas where we could make an impact and found a way [to keep that work in house,” Gile says.

Express Service Lane:

That type of work, according to Gile, is no longer a given for dealerships. Consumers are opting to take their vehicles to Jiffy Lubes instead. Instead of accepting this reality, the Motorcars team decided to look for the cause. Why were consumers doing this? In the end, it all came down to three factors: speed, transparency, and price.

In order to be competitive, Gile says that they needed to be competitive in all three of these factors.

“We knew we needed to get it done in under 30 minutes. That was our goal for speed,” Gile says. “When it comes to transparency, we knew we needed to make it so our customers could interact with our techs and see the entire process.”

When it came to competing in price, Gile says that it wasn’t about lowering prices, but instead offering value.

“If we can provide competitive pricing and we’re able to throw in a rotation or another service, it’s a benefit,” he says.

Car Wash:

Out of the 17,000 dealerships in the U.S., fewer than 250 have tunnel washes, Gile says. Of those 250, only a handful are open to the public. Armed with this information, Motorcars saw an opportunity for an additional revenue stream and another touchpoint with the customer.

Enter Motorcars’ three-location Rainforest Car Wash (which is, of course, eco-friendly). Rainforest filters and reuses water and utilizes computer-controlled technology, which means less electricity is used compared to traditional hydraulic power.

The car wash, which is open to the public, has proven to be a huge success. Each location washes between 10,000 and 15,000 vehicles per month.

“Seventy percent [of customers] coming into the car wash are new customers to the dealership. This gives us new leads,” Gile says. “The way it’s set up now, the car wash is making more money than most of the national average for traditional dealership departments are.”

The additional revenue would be enough for most, but the Motorcars team didn’t stop there. With the success it saw, the team realized there was even more opportunity: franchising the car wash model (More details on this will be shared at NADA.)

“We’ll be taking bottlenecks and eliminating them,” Gile says.

“We know where all of the failures are. We know what works and what doesn’t. We’re selling experience,” adds Anthony Bencivenni, Rainforest district manager.

Rising Star

Anthony Bencivenni, district manager for Rainforest Car Wash (Motorcars Honda’s three-location car wash business), has quickly risen through the ranks.  From working a part-time job in high school to becoming the manager of the car wash and helping increase profits 30 percent since he’s taken over the car wash, Bencivenni has become the quote-unquote face of the franchise and is living proof of how far someone can go if put in a culture that encourages the sharing of ideas.

How Does Motors Cars Stand out as an Employer? 

 

They want everything to be top notch. A lot of car washes, they’ll buy a facility and they won’t really turn it around. Not the Giles. They’re always willing to try something new and innovative.

I have had the opportunity to do what I'm doing now and make more money, but working with the Giles is such a unique experience. They give you so much freedom and trust. A lot of owners are egotistical and not pleasant. The Giles are humble. They don't need to know a lot. They rely on us to know it. 

Rarely do the Giles ever say "no." They're always willing to try something new and innovative. 

I can't say enough about what good people they are. I got hurt in 2016 and was out for several months and they stuck with me. A majority of other companies would have let me go but they stuck with meloyalty is big for me. 

Why do you think that has allowed them to be successful?  

They want everything to be top notch. A lot of car washes, they’ll buy a facility and they won’t really turn it around. Not the Giles. They’re always willing to try something new and innovative.

Since you started at Rainforest, how has the model changed?

The main thing I’ve seen change is how the company presents itself. When we started, there wasn’t a uniform or anything. We were putting money into it and for the first few years, there was no profit.

In the beginning, it was closed to the public and only people who had purchased their cars at the dealership could use it. We changed that. We made it open to the public and found a way to incentivize customers to keep coming back.

What can you tell us about the franchise model?

We’re still in the process of finding the best product distributors and equipment manufacturers to build the package but the idea is that we’re going to pitch our car wash model to other dealerships.

The package that we’re selling is eight years ahead of where other dealerships are at with their car washes.


 

 

Marketing:

One of the ways that Motorcars Honda has gotten attention is because it lets people know what it’s doing. The massive work done to the dealership with the solar panels was documented with GoPros and drones, which was such a success that Gile decided to create his own marketing company, Edge of the Box, a company that specializes in SEO and SEM.

 “When we started [going green], we had a lot of people approach us to do our marketing, and they wanted to charge a lot,” GIle says. “I thought, why don’t we just start our own marketing and we’ll go after the things that people don’t know how to do.”

Two years later, Edge of the Box has more than 60 companies for which it does social media and marketing.

“We’re projecting in the near future, the net profit of the companies outside of our dealership will be greater than the dealership itself,” Gile says.

 

Key Players

Chuck Gile, owner

Matt Gile, co-owner Toyota

Matt Glomb, marketing partner 

Brian Zent, GSM 

 

 

 

 

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