Recommendations from General Motors, Chrysler LLC, and American Honda are influencing automotive dealerships to go green with upgrades to existing facilities and the construction of new buildings. These recommendations are voluntary and the factories are not providing any incentives, subsidies, or penalties if dealerships decide not to follow the suggestions.

“For dealers, the question is, ‘Does the investment pay off for me in a reasonable amount of time?’ We leave it up to the dealer to choose how green he would like to be,” said Mark Nagel, Chrysler LLC Senior Manager of Dealer Network Strategy.

The U.S. Green Building Council offers a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification which provides specific criteria to be considered a leader in energy conservation. The dealership will improve efficiency by installing motion sensors that turn off lights in work areas when space is not in use and making automatic adjustments to window shades. Low cost suggestions include wrapping the water heater with insulation, turning down the building thermostat, more energy efficient lighting, environmentally friendly carpets and furniture, use of rainwater for landscaping, and more sky lights in the showroom.

roof reflects heat

Dealerships across the country are encouraged to install energy efficient upgrades such as this roofing material that reflects heat. Credit: NREL

GM Executive Director of Dealer Network Planning and Investment, Joe Chrzanowski said, “We can’t force our dealers to do anything. It has to make sense financially for them. They can put the certification on the door or use the environmentally friendly aspect of their facility as part of their marketing.”

According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), U.S. buildings account for 39 percent of total energy use, 12 percent of the total water consumption, 68 percent of total electricity consumption, and 38 percent of the carbon dioxide emissions. The environmental, economic, and social benefits of the upgrades are all motivating the automotive manufacturers’ promotion.

Ryan LaFontaine, General Manager of LaFontaine Automotive Group in Michigan, has given companies an example to follow with the construction of an energy efficient building expected to be completed in May. This dealership plans to use underground pipes for heating and cooling and installing a roof that will reflect heat. To encourage the use of green transportation by employees, they will also offer premium parking spaces to those driving low emission and alternative fuel vehicles. “If we could encourage one or two other dealerships to take this initiative, that’s when you make a difference,” said LaFontaine.

For more information on LEED certification, visit the U.S. Green Building Council’s Web site.

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