General Fixed Operations Operations Department

Maximizing a Dealership’s Land

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A look at how a dealership can maximize a new plot of land

At his father’s side in Prairie Village, Kan., Clint Tomlinson used to help with brake jobs, even when he was as young as 12 years old. That’s where the dream of being in dealership management took root.

So, many years later, when Clint Tomlinson’s eventual dealership employer near Kansas City began a new facility build, his imagination ran wild. It was 2018, he had worked his way up the ranks to become a fixed operations manager, and his employers asked for his insight as they began laying out a new dealership on a new plot of land.

Tomlinson knew one thing: If he had any say whatsoever, Audi Shawnee Mission was going to have a sizable footprint, so it could truly make its mark.

“I’ve worked at multiple dealerships, and I’ve never been at a dealership that had too much room on their lot,” explained Tomlinson, who has worked in several dealership leadership roles in his career. “It’s always the exact opposite—nobody has enough room for everything they’ve got.

“Because every new car manager wants to sell more cars, and to sell more cars you’ve got to have more cars in stock. Same with service; every service manager wants to do more service work, and to do that you’ve got to have more cars there.

“Nobody has enough room that they need.”

Yet, in recent months, as Audi Shawnee Mission has continued its process of moving to a new, roughly 30,000-square-foot facility two miles down the road from its original location—a process that will be completed early in 2019—Tomlinson has continued to learn what it takes to move a dealership to a new piece of land. He recently shared his insight on how a dealership can make the most of its land when creating a new facility.

As told to Kelly Beaton

I’d recommend traveling to other stores. I traveled to our dealership group’s new store out in Colorado. They just got done with a build last year. I got to go out there and find out what’s worked well, and what hasn’t worked so well, so we can avoid some of those mistakes and improve on some others. You get to see into that crystal ball a little bit.

When I toured locations, one of my lead technicians went with me. An architecture and construction firm specializing in dealerships walked us through the whole thing, and showed us why this is like this at the new dealership, and what they’re doing with this, and so on. And they were very knowledgeable. Otherwise, without a tour like that, it’s kind of hard to envision things by just looking at a piece of paper.

If you have the opportunity to go bigger, do it. The biggest mistake you could make when laying out a new dealership is running out of room. Get more land if you can. Because you’re going to run out of parking. You know, a lot of dealerships are renting off-site parking now. For the amount of space per bay, we have relied on contractors and equipment suppliers to make recommendations—12 ½ feet wide, with the center point of the lifts 14 ½ feet from the wall. Remember: once boundaries are drawn, you’re locked in, so you want to get as much room to stretch out as possible.

How big we could make the shop was based on multiple factors, like how much parking we’ll need, and the need for enough room to allow a fire truck to drive through the lot. The fixed side of the house drives dealership profit, so it’s smart to maximize your allocation of space to fixed operations—all while keeping in line with the manufacturer’s brand standards and requirements for a new building or renovations.

We’re going to maximize our land, in part, by having a car wash. We’re going to have a drive-thru car wash, and we have positioned it to where it’s in the back of the lot, which freed up some additional parking. We had to make sure we squeezed it into the back, to where it didn’t take away any more parking.

Make sure you allow room for outside vendors that visit. Make sure that you’re allowing room if you have outside vendors that come in to do any kind of reconditioning or anything like that. You know, make sure that you have a designated area for that on the lot, to where they’re not getting in the way, to where they have whatever resources they need to do the job, and they’re not getting overspray on other cars on the lot.

Something I watched out for was complacency. You know, “That’s just how we’ve done it, so that’s how it’s going to continue to be.” If you’re running into a crunch of space, and you’re running out of real estate, a dealer principal should get all of their managers together and walk the lot and say, “Pretend all these cars aren’t here, guys and gals. What would we do? What would be the best way to do this?” And then draw it out. See how much room you actually have, and come up with ideas to make it work.

Don’t just have one person making decisions. You can’t just have one person thinking about the new dealership lot. All the departments need to be involved, because all the departments will use the lot. So, you need everybody involved in the decision-making process to come to a collective agreement of what the best way is to maximize space.

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