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7 Lighting Best Practices for Auto Dealerships

It’s a Familiar Story

For whatever reason, you’re thinking the time has come to trade in your current vehicle and get started with a new ride.  You’ve seen the ads on TV, and you’ve seen the model on your mind out on the streets as you drive to work.   

That’s okay. You might not be the first, but you just might be the next. You’re pretty sure you’re about to buy a car.

(Your spouse knows all about it.  Those negotiations have been ongoing for months.  Those are just details.  The truth is, this deal is about to go down.)

You drive by the dealership on your way home at night, and you know they’ve got at least one in stock with your name on it.  Even at highway speeds, you can see that one car shining under the lights, almost talking to you.  You better get it quick before somebody else does!

The way it shines and sparkles under those lights…

Welcome to Auto Dealership Lighting 101

Most car buying stories share at least some of those details in common.  While people’s choices and motivations are surely different, there are some aspects of the car business that apply equally to all new car buyers.  

For instance, every new car buyer expects that vehicles at the dealership will look great.  That’s why in the world of new car sales, the ability to place the product in the most visually appealing environment is a key factor all automobile dealers understand.

For consumers to see themselves in a brighter future, driving a car or truck that accurately reflects who they are and what they believe about themselves, the product has to be showcased as an idealized portal to that new and improved life.

Source: iStock

Just like a grocer makes sure the prettiest apples are at the front of the bin, car dealerships understand that parking lots and showrooms are where customers make up their minds, so the lighting in those spaces has to present those cars and trucks to maximum effect.

But the game is not only about light for its own sake.  The quality of the light makes a huge difference, and the cost to operate dealership lighting has to be considered.

With profit margins for auto dealers slimmer than ever before, modern lighting and controls not only save money in operating costs but provide a superior presentation within an increasingly competitive environment.

Auto Dealership Lighting – It’s More Than Just A Lot

Most folks think about car dealerships and see in their mind a parking lot full of beautiful new cars and trucks.  While the front lot may be the focus of the dealership’s first impression, there are other areas at an auto dealership with very specific and important lighting needs.

At most auto dealerships, facility managers are tasked with providing both sufficient and efficient lighting for the following areas:

  • Building and Marquee Signage
  • Front Line / Roadside Displays
  • New Car Lot
  • Used Car Lot
  • Guest Parking Area
  • Indoor Showroom
  • Interior Office Spaces
  • Service Bays
  • Building Exterior

Clear, bright light that attracts and maintains excellent impressions in each of these areas is critical for auto dealership facility managers.

Beginning With An End In Mind

Every lighting decision an auto dealership makes should begin with an understanding that the goal of the project is to entice potential customers to come to the dealership and see the cars for themselves.

Once the customer is on the lot, the next goal is to keep him or her engaged, looking, thinking, talking, questioning, and ultimately making a decision to buy a car or truck.  Effective lighting can help with this.

Source: iStock

Consider for a moment how the automobile showroom is more important than ever when it comes to imparting a brand message.  In simpler times, all a dealership needed was a sign and a brand logo and a few brochures, maybe an ad in the local newspaper.  

These days, with so much information available to consumers online, the physical dealership has to do more to deliver the unique brand message customers see on TV and in digital advertising.  

The most successful dealerships execute smart, strategic lighting choices in the showroom to deliver the types of presentations that match the brand messaging customers see across a variety of media platforms.  

Best Lighting Practices for Automobile Dealerships in 2021

With so many factors to consider, auto dealership facility managers adhere to the following best lighting practices to ensure they attract customers and keep them engaged long enough to complete a transaction.

1. Signage

Depending on its location, an automobile dealership’s sign can be seen at a great distance, maybe even miles away.  When that sign is bright and clean, potential customers see the dealership as conscientious, serious, and open for business right now.  The sign has to be right, all the time.

2. Brilliant Outdoor Lighting

The most successful auto dealerships can bring certain aspects of the showroom out onto the lot where customers routinely begin their visit.

Truly phenomenal outdoor lighting delivers an element of excitement for customers interested in viewing the latest offerings in the best possible circumstances.  Customers are drawn to well-lit dealerships where every car shines like a luxury vehicle.  

Source: FSG

Importantly, people also feel safer at night when they visit a dealership that’s fully illuminated and welcoming.  

3. Not Too Bright, Not Too Dim

Dealerships playing at the top of their lighting game understand that the goal is to strike the perfect balance between lighting that is too bright or not quite bright enough.  Professional lighting suppliers like FSG understand how to deliver lighting at just the right level.

Most importantly to this effort, the goal should be to deliver uniform lighting levels across a lighting application.  Customers are more likely to stick around and shop when there are no dim zones or areas where the light is suddenly much brighter.  

4. Accent and Showroom Lighting

The most successful dealerships know the value of highlighting special cars or trucks that are in limited supply or that stand out from the other vehicles on display.  For these special units, accent lighting is critical.  

Strategically placed accent lighting contrasts with ambient light to impart an extra level of dazzle for customers.  When used properly, accent lighting can actually serve to “guide” shoppers from one area of focus to another.

Within showrooms, where elements of theater art come into play, color rendering is essential.  New cars come in an amazing array of colors, and falling in love with a color is one of the reasons people buy cars.  Therefore, it is essential that accent lighting carries with it a high color rendering index (CRI) so that featured vehicles never appear muddy or washed out.

Source: iStock

5. Fantastic Lighting in Service Areas

Employees and technicians in service areas perform precision work every day.  For them, proper lighting is a benefit of their employment, enabling them to perform at a high level in a safe and engaging environment.  

For external customers, a well-lit service area imparts the impression that the dealership provides excellent maintenance and repair services for the car they’re buying.

6. Automation and Control

As with any endeavor, there are usually winners and losers in life.  A close look at automobile dealerships that seem to win all the time shows that they pay close attention to energy cost savings.  These dealerships embrace automation and control for their lighting systems.

For just one example of how lighting controls can deliver success for a dealership, consider how outdoor and showroom lighting can be automatically dimmed 10% each evening at a specified time.  This one simple control feature delivers the security dealerships need while also delivering significant cost savings.

Dimmers, motion detectors, timers, and remote controls are all available today for dealerships paying attention to the small savings that can really add up to big reductions in energy costs.

7. Last, But Really First – LED Lighting

It doesn’t seem possible that in 2021 there can still be businesses that are making do with inefficient and inconsistent metal halide, high pressure sodium, or fluorescent lighting fixtures.  The fact is, however, that there are still some holdouts among us.  

Source: iStock

For these dealerships, all we can say is, “We’re here to help.”

The facts just speak for themselves with modern LED lighting.  Today’s LED fixtures are smaller and more attractive than older technologies.  They have a long, durable life span and they emit natural, uniform white light.  

LEDs have dramatically lower operating costs, and modern fixtures offer omnidirectional and unidirectional light for every application.

Most importantly, there is this one fact: LED fixtures provide light coloring capabilities that bring out the finest features of shiny new automobiles.

To put it bluntly, new cars look better when illuminated with LED light.  That really is the name of the game.

Lighting is Serious Business for Automobile Dealerships

Positive first impressions are key for any business.  In the auto dealership world, however, where competition is fierce and a steady stream of corporate advertising pervades the public consciousness to dilute any one product message, attracting customers to the dealership is a matter of survival.

Superior lighting gives auto dealers a competitive advantage, imparting positive impressions about the business and presenting each car or truck in the most attractive way.  

Howdy Honda Video Case Study

Auto dealers understand that when their customers are contemplating an expensive purchase decision, every little additional enticement can tip the buying decision in the right direction.

Individual auto dealerships, as well as automobile dealership groups, all understand the importance of placing their best foot forward with smart, strategic lighting for their facilities.

For these customers in particular, our capabilities are almost perfectly matched to the challenges they face.

Delivering Lasting Value to Auto Dealerships

FSG is committed to finding the right solutions for each business we serve. Whether we’re working for a local dealership or a regional dealership group, we bring our national scale and distribution network to each job.  

That means our expert lighting designers and technicians are not limited to any one product line or service offering.  We are uniquely positioned to offer whatever lighting solution works best for your specific dealership location.  

For our automobile dealership customers, we focus on providing flexible lighting solutions that perform flawlessly today as well as in the future when their specific application needs might change.

With flexible lighting designs and lighting fixtures that deliver color tuning, temperature tuning, and a wide range of programmable features, FSG gives dealerships the ability to make one lighting solution work across multiple seasons and applications.

If you are interested in learning more about how FSG can add some sparkle and shine to your dealership lot or showroom, contact us today or call (877) 293-6689.  Start a conversation about ways to save money while maximizing the customer appeal of your dealership.

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