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Carmakers driving dealerships to make some upgrades

Car dealerships all over the region are getting makeovers.

Automakers have rolled out programs calling for their franchised dealers to upgrade their facilities, to create a fresh, consistent look. Beyond image, they also want a dealership laid out efficiently to serve customers.

"They want their dealerships to look state of the art," said James Basil, who runs Joe Basil Chevrolet in Depew. "And the nicer looking the dealership, the more comfortable the customer is buying a car."

Whether the dealership gets financial help with the upgrades depends on the manufacturer, said Michael Basil, who runs Basil Toyota in Lockport.

But the requirements to upgrade imposed by carmakers are a top concern among dealers across the country, who are concerned about the cost they must bear amid an uncertain economy, according to Stephen Wade, chairman of the National Automobile Dealers Association.

"These costs have a significant impact on our balance sheets, in many cases severely straining them and in some cases even persuading dealers to leave the business," Wade wrote in a commentary for NADA.

The NADA has commissioned an independent study, expected to be completed by year's end, to examine the return on investment of such spending. The study is designed to uncover both "positive and negative factors that drive [return on investment]," Wade said.

"We expect the study's findings to be of use to dealers and [carmakers] alike, by moving the facilities debate away from opinion and assertion and more toward facts and data," he said.

The upgrade trend has resulted in new or improved showrooms for all types of brands around the region. Paul Stasiak, president of the Niagara Frontier Automobile Dealers Association, said the millions of dollars poured into improvements have had a spinoff economic effect locally, creating new work for contractors and suppliers to work on the buildings.