CAFE standards and fuel efficiency have been water cooler topics for dealerships and OEMs, alike, as gas prices flew over $4 last year and manufacturers look into ways to increase MPG. But what about the dealership itself? Could dealers improve their bottom lines by increasing their stores’ energy efficiency?
In an effort to help dealers move toward “greener” stores, the National Automobile Dealers Association has partnered with the Environmental Protection Agency to help stores reduce their energy consumption through the Energy Star program.
As part of this effort, NADA and EPA are trying to get a handle on how dealerships could improve their bottom line by increasing energy efficiency within their store.
The two organizations are asking dealerships to complete a brief survey “that will give the agency a benchmark to better compare the energy usage of dealerships across the country and allow certification of those dealerships that perform well.”
The survey, available at www.nada.org/energystar, asks dealers to share their yearly utility bills, square footage — inside and out — and different types of equipment used at the dealership.
“NADA's ultimate goal is to help dealers learn ways to save energy and reduce their costs,” said Don Chalmers, chairman of NADA's Government Relations Committee, and a Ford and Lincoln dealer in New Mexico. “Before we can begin the Energy Star certification process, we need to benchmark the energy usage of at least 500 dealerships.”
New-car dealers that participate in the survey and reduce their power usage will be recognized by Energy Star for their efforts to reduce the dealership's impact on the environment, officials shared.
Auto Remarketing spoke with Bailey Wood, NADA legislative affairs, who highlighted what achieving Energy Star certification may mean for dealers’ trying to score new loyal customers.
“If they do fill out the survey and cut their energy costs, they can be looked at by the EPA as being a good environmental citizen. And hanging that on the wall has value. People walk into dealerships and buy more fuel efficient cars for not only the value of saving gas, but they also want to show people they are green. And dealers want to do the same thing,” Wood said.
In an attempt to jumpstart the research, NADA has launched a new program called Energy Ally.
Businesses, such as accounting, consulting and energy management firms, that assist at least five dealerships to complete the survey will be awarded an NADA Energy Ally designation. Then, these contractors can use the recognition to market their services to other dealerships, NADA shared.
Why Dealers Should Take Note
Though becoming Energy Star certified could potentially bring in more customers looking to buy from an environmentally responsible retailer, many dealers are concerned the costs of energy efficient tools, such as light bulbs or solar panels, may prove to cost more than the benefits will cover.
Wood says this is simply not the case, noting there are some things you just “can’t put a price on.”
“Number one, there is the intangible fact that greening your dealership will make your world better for a future generation; you can’t put a dollar sign on that,” Wood said.
“Secondly, there is a very clear return on investment related to these types of upgrades. You cut your energy costs; you cut your overhead. And that has a very clear dollar return. There is clear value there,” he continued.
And as more of these technologies get out there in the marketplace, the more the costs of the products will come down, says Wood.
He offered the example of high efficiency electric bulbs.
“Dealers should consider getting away from the older ones (light bulbs) and getting into compact florescent and LEDs; the prices of these items have come down dramatically. And because of that, the ROI is much earlier and much sooner. So, a lot of dealers are very interested in implementing them,” he said.
Wood also went on to highlight a few easy ways dealerships could improve their energy efficiency and cut costs:
1. Motion-censored light bulbs
2. Thermostat timers
3. Recycling used motor oil to heat or cool dealership
4. Solar panels and photovoltaic energy systems
5. Roof cooling, including sprinklers
Wood also highlighted one particular measure one Energy Star dealership took to cut down on heating costs, in particular.
“The dealer gave every service technician a clicker for the garage door on the front of the building. Guys would go out and get a car, and they would bring it into the dealership and leave the door open. It wasn’t convenient to run to the service bay and all the way back. But if they had a clicker, they could click it and the door would go down,” Wood explained.
Simple fixes such as this can help dealerships save money on heating and cooling bills.
Wood said you should even consider efficiency when choosing a location for dealership buildings.
“If you have a lot of southern facing windows, you are going to get a lot of extra heat, and that means more money to cool,” Wood said, noting it may only take a simple change in the angle of construction to save in the long run.
“So not only do you have a very clear ROI with some great strategies already in the marketplace, the more dealers that participate in this and the more dealers who seek to become Energy Star certified, more energy-efficient products will be available — and like I said with the compact florescent lights, the prices will go down,” Wood concluded.
Wood also highlighted how the NADA Convention and Expo, which will be held Feb. 8–11 in Orlando, will showcase hundreds of exhibitors whose products help meet the energy-saving goals of dealerships.
Motion sensors for lights, timers for thermostats, heaters that run on used motor oil, solar arrays for heating water and gathering electricity and roof cooling devices are just some of the products that will be on display at the convention, Chalmers added.
“All of these companies and people that are offering products which help cut energy costs are going to be at our convention next week, and dealers can walk around and see these things for themselves,” Wood said.
NADA has also released a video, which tells the story of a Christiansburg, Va., dealership’s experience of implementing an energy efficiency plan.
Turn to the next page to access the video: