Motorcars Honda Managing Partner Trevor Gile knows that innovation in the automotive industry goes well beyond the latest features and technological developments. To remain competitive in these uncertain, challenging times, dealerships have to be willing to try new things.
"Back in 2010, we decided to take one of our most significant expenses and try to turn it into a profit center," Gile told Mega Dealer News. "We took our small in-bay and built a retail-facing car wash, and the benefits to the dealership were immediate. We saw an increase in CSI (customer satisfaction index), retention, lower transaction time and additional revenue. The car wash quickly became our second-highest net-profit department."
The car wash also became a valuable tool for recruiting new customers, Gile says.
"As dealers, we are used to seeing our customers once or twice a year in service," said Gile, who joined his family's group of Ohio dealerships more than two decades ago. "Now we see them almost weekly, so it’s a great way to stay in front of your customers. Not only is it recapturing your current customers, but it’s also bringing in new ones. We estimate that roughly 70 percent of our car wash customers have never been to the dealerships."
Thanks to a creative, if not downright brilliant October 2019 Halloween promotion, the car wash recently made a huge national media splash.
"We recently held our first Haunted Car Wash," Gile said. "It ran for the last two weekends of October, after hours. It was an immediate hit within our local community once we started advertising, and soon local news outlets picked up the story. By the first weekend, we made CNN, Good Morning America, USA Today, ABC News, BuzzFeed and had gone viral on Facebook and TikTok with over 10 million combined video views."
The success of the Halloween promotion has spawned new ideas such as the upcoming Christmas car-wash event in which kids can leave letters for Santa and meet with him on certain days. The dealership is also expecting to collect more than 3,000 donations of canned goods that will be handed out to local charities.
"Not only has the car wash improved the dealerships' bottom line, but it has also made a significant impact within our community and even helped us make national news," Gile said. "This has helped us extend our brand reach from local to national, and we are now hosting a canned food drive at each location with local book banks and hosting a Holiday Tunnel complete with Christmas lights and snow machines. By trying new things and ideas, we were able to make a massive impact on our community and engage with them on a level we haven’t before."