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Honda Says Customers Care About Dealership Sustainability – and the Customer Is Always Right

Honda is counting on a new way to reach sustainability-minded car buyers: through “green” dealerships. A new “Green Dealer Guide” the company is releasing to its dealers today arguably puts Honda at the forefront of this trend, but it also follows on greater attention that automakers and their retailers are now paying to sustainability.

Honda has publicly released the 93-page energy-efficiency roadmap that it developed specifically for dealerships and similar commercial buildings with high energy loads, and is urging dealers of all car brands to take its advice to heart.

“We have heard through multiple engagements with customers and dealers that this is an important part of the consideration for purchasing vehicles,” said Ryan Harty, manager of the environmental business-development office for American Honda, based in Torrance, California.

He declined to provide details, but added: “We want people to have the confidence that Honda is a sustainable brand, and has those values, and that’s kind of inseparable from the overall brand experience. Honda has consistently been a leader in environmental performance, and people expect that of us.”

Honda isn’t the first automaker to begin emphasizing dealership energy-conservation measures and other sustainability steps. There’s a Chevrolet dealer in suburban Detroit that relies on a couple of windmills for some of its power, for example. And in redesigning its global dealership footprint and encouraging U.S. dealers to invest in its new efficiency-focused Terminal design for their showrooms, Audi has taken its own significant tack toward more sustainable dealer facilities.

The square, “stackable” design of the Terminal showroom uses space optimally in both a crowded urban setting as well in open suburban communities. While the showrooms attract and capture natural sunlight, glass amounts have been reduced throughout the building in order to direct the sunlight properly. By consolidating space, limiting wasted areas and using natural light, the new Terminal dealerships save 30 to 40 percent in expenses compared with their predecessors.

As for Honda’s “Green Dealer” guide, Honda says it synthesizes the company’s experience over the last three years in helping its U.S. dealers to reduce their energy consumption and operating costs as it has in certain areas (the Rossi Honda dealership in Vineland, NJ claims to be the first U.S. auto dealer to become “electric grid neutral” through its use of solar power). Steps typically include things such as investing in an efficient rooftop HVAC system with advanced controls, installing LED lighting with automatic controls, recycling waste, putting in high-speed garage doors and using native landscaping.

“But it’s difficult to do just one program for every dealership across the United States,” said Raminta Jautokas, program manager for Green Dealer. “So it’s a customizable program where every dealership receives its own custom roadmap for energy and water improvements for their dealership.”

Though they’re independently owned businesses, Honda dealers typically don’t resist the investments necessary to follow the roadmap to greater efficiency, Harty and Jautokas said. Most American auto dealers own more than one brand of dealership, and these days they’re being continually pressured by many automakers to invest significantly more in their dealerships both in physical upgrades and other facilities improvements, as well as in extra staff and training to ensure high customer satisfaction and ability to explain infotainment technologies to buyers.

One reason, Jautokas said, is that “a 10 percent reduction in [energy and water] costs is very achievable. We understand that these are businesses we don’t own, so we have an incentive and a carrot for them. It’s a win-win situation.”

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