by Michael F. Watkins
Responding to escalating competition, virtually every major automaker is outlining design requirements to the dealerships selling its cars. In many cases, high-speed, solid-panel doors play a role in the auto industry’s retail strategy—technological advancements with these types of systems are enabling dealers to improve the aesthetics and energy efficiency of their facilities.
Purchasing a car comes with a unique set of expectations. Everything around this transaction has to give confidence to the customer that the dealership with whom they are working is reliable, provides value, and reflects quality. An auto dealership location is a store, but unlike traditional shops, the product the customer leaves with is rather sizable—very large doorways are necessary to bring cars in and out of the building for showcasing or maintenance.
There are many considerations for dealership doorways when it comes to occupying a facility. These large doorways need to contribute to the operation’s ability to serve the customer, minimize energy and maintenance costs, and add to the design ‘feel’ of the dealership. Consequently, auto dealers are turning to high-performance, high-speed rigid panel doors to fulfill these needs.
Since coming to the brink of disaster during the recession of 2008, the auto industry has bounced back and has sparked a wave of new dealership construction. Manufacturers have urged—in some cases, even subsidized—renovations while the more successful auto groups are opening new locations. Attention is paid to every element of the building, and that includes the doors. There are criteria for dealerships, which doors and large doorways need to satisfy for the success of the operation.
Automakers see their dealerships as an opportunity to reinforce their brand every time potential customers drive by the store. All the major companies have developed programs that specify the look of the stores where their cars are sold, including layout, materials, finishes, furnishings, fixtures, signs, and space specifications for all areas of the facility.
The look of these high-speed doors used on large doorways is one of the main reasons why architects specify these kinds of openings. Along with enabling any paint color to be applied to the surface of the panels, high-speed rigid door panels do not roll up on each other, preventing ugly scratches from marring the door’s appearance. By design, this makes door operation extremely quiet. Further, the door’s high speed of 2540 mm (100 in.) per second or more creates a ‘wow’ factor for anyone seeing them in operation.
On a typical dealership, most service departments feature two to four of these doors, with the service area using about 70 percent, with one door for access to the showroom.
“The doors are an important part of enhancing our image when our customers come by to have their cars serviced,” says Ed Loyconi, business manager for Delaney Auto Group.
Dealership owners and automakers want building components that keep their stores looking good to satisfy mandates while operating efficiently. The goal is to nurture long-term relationships with service center customers to ensure repeat business—appearance is an important first step.
In the past, the service center was an afterthought. The area, including the doors, looked grimy and was located around the back. Since the old garage-style doors tended to be slow (and customers tended to be in a hurry), the panels bore battle scars from being hit by cars entering the service center, getting the relationship off to a rocky start.
The service center for many dealerships is now part of its street-view curb appeal, and what passing motorists now see are sleek, stylish aluminum slat roll-up doors. The look fits in with the clean architectural styling of the building, designed per the specifications of automakers’ signature architecture.
The slats are anodized aluminum, giving an extra layer of clear protection over the color to prevent wear and fading in the sun. Recently, roll-up doors have also become available with clear or tinted full width window slats. The top-to-bottom, full-length panels add to the high-tech look of the facility, bring in additional lighting to the area, and enable those inside the building to see when a car is approaching.