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Drive-in movie time for Star City visitors

Within a week of opening for business the crowds were flocking to Star City, Birmingham's new £90m entertainment complex just off the M6.

Karl Hamer, Hamer Group managing director, is hoping many of the estimated 6m visitors a year will also call into his newly opened Toyota World.

Mr Hamer told guests at the official opening he planned to be the “number one Toyota dealer in the UK within two years”. The new site will serve as a hub for his other Toyota outlets in Burton-on-Trent and Tamworth, Staffordshire.

Certainly Toyota World will be hard to miss. The dealership is right on the roundabout at the entrance to Star City. A separate sales and service centre kiosk – complete with a new Toyota MR2 on the roof – is positioned directly on the main walkway from the car parks to the heart of the complex. Visitors to Star City can enjoy a choice of 30 cinema screens, a 22-lane Megabowl, countless restaurants and pubs plus leisure-style shopping for books, CDs and videos.

Graham Smith, Toyota GB managing director, said the location of Toyota World was “probably the premier site for a motor dealership in the country” and described its opening as “one of the most significant motor retail dealerships in the UK”.

In keeping with its surroundings, Toyota World is designed to provide a “retail experience”. The glass walled building, with cars suspended from the ceiling, is dramatic to look at from the outside and light and airy inside. New cars are grouped according to type in the showroom with a 4x4 area including a rocky terrain and a sports section.

There is a relaxed, family atmosphere with a receptionist to greet potential customers and sales staff in back offices, available when needed. The theme is hi-tech with interactive displays, an internet cafe which is free to customers, newspapers, free refreshments and a children's play area.

Customers will be able to book cars in for servicing, or arrange test drives from the sales and service kiosk. Cars can be serviced and valeted while families are at the cinema or having a meal. A pager will be supplied to tell the customer when the car is ready for collection.

Toyota World is unique in having service bays inside the showroom with just a safety barrier separating customers from the technicians working on their car. Mr Hamer said the aim was to treat service customers “properly, with decent facilities” and recognise service technicians as equal with sales staff.

Mike Moran, Toyota commercial director, said Toyota's involvement in the project had been significant. “We wanted to do something special here to fit in with the environment,” he said.

Tadao Kobayashi, Toyota GB chairman, officially opened the dealership. Other senior managers from Toyota who travelled to Birmingham included Akira Imai, president Toyota Europe. It is clear Mr Hamer's enterprise is important to Toyota.

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