Leclerc creates events to attract clients to his dealerships.
In a Chrysler dealership he also owns, he assembled an “SRT suite” to show all the Dodge high-performance models together.
“Things like that bring people in, and help sales,” he said.
Large glass surfaces are also an important element in the design, to maximize lighting. That’s why the new dealership has lots of glass, to convey a sense of openness and to allow shoppers to see up close “the true colours of the merchandise.”
Leclerc sees only one downside to bringing inventory indoors: cost.
“You need a lot of money to do that. If you take a medium-size dealership, you will easily invest two or three million dollars more to bring your cars indoors.
“But if I had the money, I would to that with every dealership I own.”
Leclerc said that dealers shouldn’t dismiss weather as a factor in selling vehicles.
“I lost a couple of sales on a rainy day [at an outdoor lot] because the client did not want to go outside to take a better look at the car,” he said. “It’s also a constant struggle to choose which car will [come] inside or stay outside.”
Daniel Beaucage of Groupe Beaucage owns 25 dealerships, but none have an all-in- door inventory.
“It’s just too much money,” he said. A square foot of land is about $15 for an outside lot compared to $125 for an inside space.
“If you want to put 100 cars inside with each car needing 250 square feet (23 square metres) of space, it means you need a minimum of 25,000 square feet, (2,300 square metres) and more than $3 million just for the cars.”
Other significant costs include making space for personnel, lighting, heating in winter and air conditioning in summer.
“We did the math and it’s not worth it for us. There are a couple [of fully enclosed] dealerships in Québec, but I don’t think it will become a trend,” Beaucage said. “The cost of doing business is too high. Winter is a reality and we learn to live with it.
“All my dealerships can contain 10 to 12 cars inside, and the rest are outside. I am OK with this.
The group’s newer dealerships follow a more open concept with larger glass surfaces, Beaucage said, “but the way we sell a car stays the same.”
Three- and even four-story dealerships are appearing across the United States, and several have opened in Toronto, but dealers must plan carefully, Leclerc says.
“The money always comes out of the dealership pocket, and if you put $10 million or more into metal and concrete, you need to be sure the sales will follow. We need volume.”
Beaucage said that markets outside large urban centres are too small to support an indoor-inventory business model.