Nearly 20 years of pent-up design energy is erupting at Honda dealerships across the country this year as work is rolling on the automaker’s first interior image program since the late 1990s.
Dubbed HDFP-I (Honda dealer facility image program – interior), the program officially started on Jan. 1 this year and has seen roughly half a dozen stores become compliant by the end of April with another 11 rooftops under construction.
Aroona Medley, dealer development manager at Honda, says they hope to have 49 stores imaged in 2016 – most of which were early handraisers or stores that already had construction or renovation projects underway.
“We recognized there was an opportunity to elevate an 18-year-old program from the interior perspective. It’s taking off and we’re getting positive reaction from the network and we’re making some good progress,” Medley says.
“It’s early days in year 1, but I am very pleased with the results thus far.”
HDFP-I was first announced to the network in February 2015.
The look is not a fundamental swing from the previous theme and remains consistent with the unchanging exterior appearance. The primary colours of white and red will stay and be complemented with additional neutral tones.
The program does not require changes to store layouts but includes new furniture, modular salesperson stations, interior graphic solutions, redesigned millwork pieces for reception and service along with new paint and tile schemes.
Interestingly, there are two design concepts from which dealers can choose. And while there are consistencies, the differences between the two are noticeable.
The two designs, which are now property of Honda Canada, were essentially the winning proposals from an RFP the automaker put out. While Medley wasn’t willing to reveal the design firms behind the final concepts other than to say they are “Canadian-created,” she says the fact there are two options underscores the automaker’s desire to be as flexible with this update as possible.
“We’re trying to work with our dealers to make this a better experience all the way through. Having the flexibility of choice allows dealers to select what they feel best fits their dealership and their market. And we are seeing some good results.”
Medley and the team at corporate followed the February announcement with life-sized display versions of option A and option B that were revealed to retailers at a national dealer meeting in Toronto last September.
Housed in one of the halls at the Enercare Centre, the displays looked like mini-dealerships complete with cars and all the elements of the new program.
“It was a very successful display because it enabled dealers, before the launch of the program, to see first hand the two concepts side-by-side,” Medley explains.
“They were able to touch and feel everything, sit down in the chairs and sit at the desks. We had huge display boards with the colour schemes, paint samples, fabric pieces and, of course, we had our team of dealer development representatives from across the country on hand.”
Rollout and Cost
Honda Canada is targeting a five-year completion timeline with HDFP-I at its 232 stores.
One of the six stores completed as of the end of April was Owen Sound Honda. Dealer principal Sikander Umar told Canadian AutoWorld the timing of the program worked well as his team had been planning to build a new facility last year.
They broke ground in May and moved in on Dec. 15.
“I think it is absolutely fantastic,” Umar says of HDFP-I. “It brings new light into the showroom and the service reception area. It is a very appealing image and I think Honda did a good job with it.”
Honda did not reveal average costs stressing instead that every dealership will be a unique project. The automaker will not be sharing any of the expenses for HDFP-I.
“The store size, the materials they are selecting and the scope of work will all vary. What’s interesting is that while changing store layout is not a requirement, we are finding some dealers are using the launch of this new program to go beyond an interior image refresh and we are seeing some major renovations and even facility expansions through this project,” Medley explains.
Helping to keep costs down a little is flexibility in sourcing of some materials. While sales stations and other furniture items will only be offered through two approved Canadian suppliers – The Global Group and Buro Design – the sales and service reception millwork along with the service advisor stations can be contracted out by dealers to local contractors.
The company says it will provide “very comprehensive” Honda-approved specifications for those units.
When asked if retailers are leaning towards one option over the other, Medley says there is a near 50/50 split thus far. While some regional preferences are taking shape – more option B in Quebec, for example – it remains fairly even.