Inchcape’s new Honda dealership in Romford, Essex, will be a pilot site for the carmaker’s new European corporate identity.
The showroom features new interior design, radically different exterior signage and a distinctive build structure. The site also becomes a test bed for environmental facilities – in keeping with Honda’s brand values – which include using recycled water and heating via a ground source pump.
“We want to assess how dealers and customers react to these changes and make any adjustments,” said Bernard Bradley, Honda UK general manager cars. “It will be rolled out over the next two to three years.
A number of dealers will have to move location to meet the growing demands on service bays, car bays and parking space. Between now and 2015, the network will undergo “significant investment”.
Honda believes the corporate overhaul is necessary to ensure its retail facilities match its aspirations of becoming an upmarket brand. The buzz phrase is “alternative premium”.
It will apply to the new Jazz, due in the final quarter, the new global hybrid vehicle due next spring, and the replacement for the CR-V in two years’ time.
However, design is only one part of the programme. Equally important to Honda are the people and the process inside the dealership.
Bradley said: “I can live with a degree of inconsistency regarding the outside of the building. But I struggle with polar opposites on customer satisfaction.”
He has set up an internal group and a dealer group working across all the key functions – marketing, sales and aftersales – to look at the customer journey and the consistency of approach throughout the retail network. The process is due to be completed this year.
Action will include a set of operational standards, the “non-negotiables” according to Bradley, and staff training to take place during 2009. “We will discuss it with the National Dealer Council to explain where we are going,” he added. “We recognise that it has to be appropriate investment for the business.”