A Pop-Up Car Dealership? It’s Not as Crazy (or Difficult) as You May Think

Imagine driving home and pulling into your driveway only to see that your next-door neighbor’s garage has been turned into a car dealership.

That very thing happened throughout several neighborhoods around France. It was all part of a marketing campaign by Honda called #HondaNextDoor. It turns out that Honda does not have many dealerships in France. So, since it is difficult to get people to dealerships, this was an attempt to bring the dealership to the people. The campaign also wisely utilized the brand’s best salespeople: its fans.

Honda selected 10 super fans and converted their garages into dealerships by attaching an official logo above the garage door and placing a couple of branded dealership flags (like you would find at any typical dealership) in the front. Other than that, they kept the garages untouched. This means that the decorations of the garages – framed car memorabilia, racing gear, miniature car models, etc. – were all authentic. These were people who just happened to love Honda cars now being given the opportunity to promote the brand on a broader scale.

In total the #HondaNextDoor campaign lasted three weeks. It was promoted by TV spots that featured the number one fan, a gentleman named Jean-Baptiste who invited folks to register for a test drive of a CR-V or HR-V at their nearest pop up. Over 1,000 people registered to view the redecorated facades, tour the garages, and take a test drive. In addition, a million people saw the spots and thousands of leads were generated.

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Photo Credit: Media Marketing

In fact, due to the success of #HondaNextDoor, Honda is planning to replicate the campaign in other European countries, beginning with Belgium.

This campaign utilizes two elements that were previously absent when it came to car sales. First, it leveraged brand ambassadors as salespeople. These are the folks who already use the product on a daily basis and are intimately acquainted with it, people who promote the product because they genuinely love it, not because they make a commission on its sale. In fact, they may be willing to offer the unvarnished truth – warts and all. That’s ok – consumers appreciate honesty over a glossy sales pitch.

Second, it took the product to the people. It is kind of ironic that a product on four wheels with its own engine relies on brick and mortar dealerships for sales. But that is the current system, and it’s working – for now. Studies have shown that while people may be willing to purchase clothes or books online, big ticket items – like cars – are still overwhelmingly in-person purchases. In fact, recent research has found that auto dealers (along with gas stations, grocery stores, and beverage outlets) have proven themselves to be “online resistant.”

However, that doesn’t mean that this status quo is sustainable for the long run. Dealerships that just assume that customers are going to keep flocking to their doors are mistaken. The nature of shopping is changing because the shoppers are changing. Technology and all of its conveniences have bled into every aspect of a shopper’s expectations. The biggest products for online purchasing, books and music, is seeing a downward trend. That’s because the main online purchasers of these items are the older generations. Millennials stream these items as opposed to purchasing. However, millennials are more comfortable purchasing everything online, including big ticket items like furniture, appliances and vehicles.

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In addition, the purchasing power of millennials is stronger than it has ever been, and that is only going to increase. To combat this potential threat to the brick and mortar, dealerships need to get creative, and the #HondaNextDoor campaign may have the answer. While dealerships may not always be able to utilize fervent brand ambassadors to advocate for them, they always have the ability to take their product to the people.

In fact, with Event Architecture’s mobile structures, it is easy to create a pop-up dealership anywhere, any place, at any time.

Want to give beachgoers a surprise while giving them a break from the heat? You can set up a dealership on the beach. These portable structures can be put up nearly anywhere: a park, vacant lot, beach, under a bridge, etc. Uneven surfaces, like sand or snow, are not a problem. You are only limited by your imagination. And the contemporary design of the buildings will enhance the innovative feeling you are trying to convey with your pop-up dealership.

All of these structures are comprised of sturdy, aluminum supports carefully engineered with stability and safety in mind. What gives these buildings their rigidity and strength is a double layer of coated fabric membrane with a securely bonded trim called an AirCell. Once this material is fitted securely in aluminum framing channels, it is pressurized to create tension and durability.

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“They are completely weatherproof,” said Tim Bookout, Director of Sales for Event Architecture, “whether it’s dusty, windy, too hot, too cold, our mobile structures will keep all of the elements out. In addition, they can be fully climate controlled with both air conditioning and heating. From a simple corner unit all the way to ducted air conditioning or heating. You can basically run a duct along the sides, underneath the AirCells and the floor there is room to snake in a duct. We can also cut holes in the plexiglass at the bottom or top to duct air in.”

One option for a mobile dealership is the XPO, a single-story structure that’s available in two sizes of approximately 20-feet and 33-feet wide. The XPO is eight-feet deep, which is plenty of room to park a couple of cars inside, but the depth can be increased by simply adding additional AirCells.

If you want to create a two-story structure, simply use the XPODH, which is twice as high as the XPO. Then you can add a deck inside to create a showroom on the bottom floor and some private offices upstairs.

“These structures lend themselves to be totally branded,” said Bookout. “Most people will use dye-sublimated fabric to wrap around the entire exterior of the AirCell. Then on the front and back walls, which are basically clear Plexiglass, you can use a printed vinyl cover to completely brand it or brand decals, so you can still see in and out. Then we have flooring that we can print in house where the logo is on the bottom side of it and there’s clear plastic on top of it. And you can brand the interior walls in a wide variety of ways.”

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If you want to keep some cars outside, but still have a climate-controlled inside available, the OiO is what you are looking for. This 8×8-foot pod is the perfect space to let a customer browse options or for a private meeting.

“We had a car company come to us with the idea of putting all of their finishes inside an OiO,” said Bookout. “You could have all the different kinds of leather and the colors of the exterior, so that when people were out at a fan event they could step inside to examine and feel all the different options and put different color combinations together to decide what would look really cool on the car they are looking at.”

Just a few years ago, a pop-up dealership seemed like an impossible concept. Today, it looks like an innovative way to engage customers and keep your dealership feeling fresh and relevant. For more information about our mobile structures and your options for converting them into a pop-up dealership, give one of our Event Architecture experts a call at 972-323-9433.

sofia krsmanovic