IMI Magazine

IMI Magazine

Dealership design

‘To get the best, you provide the best’

A new BMW dealer facility in Nottingham is intended not only to appeal to customers, but also a workforce that reflects the quality reputation of the marque. Report by Chris Phillips.

Sytner’s new BMW retail showpiece in Nottingham has features that wouldn’t look out of place in New York. Which is hardly surprising when it’s recalled that Sytner is now owned by the US motor retailing giant United Automotive Group.

UAG boss Roger Pensky was a regular visitor to the Nottingham site during its two years of development and is due to attend the official opening later this month.

When fully completed, the BMW/Mini outlet on the outskirts of the city will have cost nearly £10m. Since acquiring Sytner for £95m in the early part of last year, UAG has earmarked £60m for upgrading and re-locating Sytner sites across the UK.

“UAG has given Sytner the resources it didn’t have as a PLC,” said John Quigley, managing director of the Nottingham dealership. “UAG is in this for the longer term and what we have now in Nottingham is a facility which will last for the next 20 years or more.”

Quigley has been at Sytner for seven years and one of his first tasks at Nottingham was to look for a new site to replace the one in the city centre which had been trading since 1980.

What he eventually found was a three-acre site previously occupied by a company making components for sewing machines on the Lenton industrial estate, which is inhabited by a series of other manufacturers’ dealerships.

That’s now being given its finishing touches before the official opening and the next move is expansion on to a neighbouring one-acre site to accommodate a bigger Mini showroom, along with a valeting operation and possibly a bodyshop.

Quigley said the current development was very much a case of the architects preparing the design template, with people “close to the ground” – such as Pensky and himself – contributing to the detail. “Culturally, Sytner and UAG make a very good fit – both share similar views on what it takes to run a really professional business. We’re kindred spirits,” said Quigley.

Typically, a dealership serving this catchment area would have around 16 to 20 work bays, but in anticipation of future demand, the Nottingham facility has been “over engineered” to provide 27 bays.

Each has a pair of benches with its own phone line, PC, tool cabinet, air line and power supply, with a shared water supply. “In the old days, it was a case of a technician having to fetch water from one tap serving the whole workshop,” said Quigley.

The split level showroom is intended to offer a better view to passing motorists, with the lower level – which leads on to a show area dedicated to used cars – designed to accommodate either new or used vehicles, depending on stock supply at any given time.

The sales area is connected to a room for sales trainees, which in turn leads to the business manager’s office. Each is fitted with sliding doors, shut when privacy is required but normally left open to ensure a free flow of communication.

For aftersales, each customer has a dedicated service team manager (service adviser) and their accommodation, like sales, is linked to the reception “hub” which features TV, reading and refreshment facilities. “On our old site, the service area was 200 years away from sales, so a customer could go to service without seeing the latest product – potentially a missed sales opportunity,” said Quigley. For the children’s area, he copied an idea from a health club – a “den” with its own TV.

Sales administration and accounts staff are on the mezzanine floor which offers an open view of the showroom. “Conventional design would have that area glazed, but that shuts off members of staff from what’s happening below,” commented Quigley.

Ground floor parking is complemented by a 160-bay, four-deck park, and a drive-through, two-bay area for a lube change leads to a 60-vehicle-an-hour car wash. “In the time it takes for an oil change, a customer can relax with a cup in the reception area,” said Quigley, who added: “At UAG’s Mercedes’ facility in San Diego, a car can be serviced and valeted in the time it takes not only to have a coffee but also a free cooked breakfast!”

  Then there are the incidental details. Accessory display cabinets positioned by the main entrance which, along with the main reception area, are designed to create a hotel lobby atmosphere. To ensure the main reception desk is kept tidy, incoming mail, brochures, etc, are stored in an adjoining office. Tidiness was also borne in mind when it came to furnishing the canteen with its floor anchored “tractor” seating, and the design of the D-shaped showroom desks, with computer wiring hidden in the support stem. 

“This facility is designed as much for employees as customers,” said Quigley. “If you provide the best in terms of a working environment, then you stand a much better chance of getting the best people to work for you.”