Mazda showcases new showroom design in Utah
By Mark Rechtin
Automotive News / February 03, 2003
SALT LAKE CITY -- If Mazda wants to break from the rest of the Japanese automotive pack, it has made a dynamic move with a showroom design unveiled here last week.
A riot of blaring orange, vibrant green and electric purple, the new Mazda dealership is miles from the conservative grays and whites of most showrooms.
"We wanted something that stood out, something that matched our idea that Mazda is fast, fun and cool," said Charlie Hughes, president of Mazda North American Operations.
Bountiful Mazda, nestled hard against the mountains north of Salt Lake City, is the first Mazda dealership to embrace the design.
The 19,000-square-foot store sits on slightly more than two acres of land. The building and land cost about $2.3 million, not counting the capitalization for the dealership, said dealer principal Michael MacDonald.
Bountiful's showroom is the premier store in Mazda's effort to upgrade the franchise from its second-tier status.
Mazda dealers could use the boost. Mazda sold 258,213 vehicles in 2002, a 4.2 percent decline from the previous year.
The showroom was planned by Design Forum of Dayton, Ohio, although dealers are allowed to tinker with the blueprints. In Bountiful's case, the layout was flip-flopped to account for the slope of the surrounding land.
So far, only 20 of Mazda's 700 dealers are building the new showroom, said Jim Hoostal, Mazda director of dealer development. Hoostal thinks the arrival of new products such as the Mazda6, Mazda3 and RX-8 sports car will persuade dealers to change their showrooms without his having to resort to arm-twisting.
The automaker isn't pushing the concept hard. Hoostal declined to say what its targeted number of redesigned dealerships is, nor would he give details of Mazda's financial support program.
An industrial look
The overall look of the store is like a giant service bay. Rather than traditional interior walls, Mazda went with an industrial theme, using horizontal-slatted metal siding. A gleaming yellow Mazda6 is mounted on a towering, glass-enclosed lift just inside the entrance.
Other design cues include a faux wind-tunnel fan behind the store's showcase vehicle - most likely the upcoming RX-8. The floors are cement, rather than tile. Climate control ductwork is exposed, rather than hidden behind drywall. Track lighting dangles shamelessly from the soaring ceilings.
In the sales area, there are no "hot-boxes" for sales negotiation. All dealings are out in the open. Consumers and sales staff share a computer, and staff members are instructed to refer to third-party Internet sites such as Edmunds.com and kbb.com, the Kelley Blue Book site, to take some of the distrust out of the deal.
Espresso and a video game
A MazdaCafe serves espresso and has a flat-screen TV showing Mazda vehicles at top speed. A nearby monitor allows shoppers to try their hand at driving an RX-8 on a Sony PlayStation Gran Turismo video game.
The store's exterior has the same wild paint scheme, which would seem more at home at an amusement park than at a car dealership.
"We call it 30 mile-per-hour branding," Hoostal said, referring to the speed of traffic on the boulevard outside the showroom.
The service bay is just beyond the cafe, with a giant window to allow people to watch what is happening to their cars. A special drive-up lane is reserved for those who want a 20-minute oil change.
While the dealership was under construction, Bountiful averaged 40 new and 40 used vehicles a month, "selling out of trailers," said MacDonald, who once sold Chevrolets in Detroit. He hopes to raise that to 600 new Mazdas and 600 used vehicles a year.
In the early 1990s, Mazda's Salt Lake City metro dealers had nearly 6 percent market share, compared with Mazda's 1.5 percent nationally. MacDonald is hopeful that the franchise can return to those glory years.
(Photo) Michael MacDonald of Bountiful Mazda, the first store to embrace the new dealership design.
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My next Ford.....