NEW YORK – Even for Manhattan, it’s a show-stopper of a dealership.
Mercedes-Benz USA has invested $220 million on a 330,000-sq.-ft. (30,658- sq.-m) facility that strives to be the premium auto maker’s premier store in the U.S.
Mercedes considered the opening of this store so important that Dieter Zetsche, chairman of parent company, flew in for the ribbon-cutting.
The dealership on West 41st St. is three times the size of Mercedes’ previous Manhattan location that stood to the south.
The new facility can accommodate more than 550 vehicles on a 7.6-acre (3-ha) site that contains an extra-wide circular ramp providing vehicles with access to all five levels occupied by the company-owned facility.
Adjacent to the store is a 29-story residential building called Mercedes House that offers luxury apartments renting for up to $4,100 per month.
The building is a jewel in Hell’s Kitchen, an east Manhattan area with a dark past that includes street gangs and mob shootouts.
Mercedes wants the new showroom to set the standard for transforming the auto maker’s retail network into a benchmark for premium-car sales environments.
Franchised Mercedes dealers nationwide already have invested more than $1.4 billion in upgrading their facilities. The auto maker seeks to set an example with its store.
Blair Creed, general manager of Mercedes-Benz Manhattan, says the new store is attracting more customers than the one it replaces, because the old facility was too close to the Lincoln Tunnel. Traffic entering the tunnel would back up, making the dealership nearly inaccessible.
With 40% additional service capacity and 50% additional showroom space, repair orders are beginning to exceed monthly counts of the previous location.
If the two customer lounges aren’t enough to attract Mercedes owners and potential buyers, the dealership spends $18,000 per month on food and beverages to entertain them.
The ground floor holds showrooms for Mercedes and Smart vehicles. The finance and insurance department also is on that level.
A mezzanine level houses a pre-owned vehicle showroom, a Sprinter van showroom, corporate sales department and administrative offices.
There also are three below-ground levels. Lower level 1 has a reception area for service customers and the service and parts departments. There’s a collision center on that level, as well as a pre-owned vehicle showroom, boutique and lounge.
Besides watching TV, customers can borrow iPads to use while waiting for their vehicles to be serviced. Free wireless access is throughout the building.
Lower-level 2 has a glass-enclosed service workshop containing 71 bays, 20 more than the old facility. Each technician has a personal service area.
Customers in the service lounge can look through a glass wall to see technicians working on their cars. The new store has 165 loaner vehicles available to service customers. Creed says the loaners have a 98% utilization rate.
Lower-level 3 contains the vehicle-detailing department and parking. The dealership uses a radio-frequency identification system to track and manage vehicle movement throughout the building. Escalators and a see-through glass elevator provide floor-to-floor movement.
Last year, Mercedes-Benz Manhattan racked up annual sales of 3,254 vehicles and serviced 145 repair orders daily. That placed it third in national sales volume for new Mercedes models. The store also placed third in certified pre-owned sales nationally.
Creed says store volume is ahead of 2010 totals for new and CPO sales. He credits the new facility, as well as new product and proximity to competitive dealerships on what is known as Manhattan’s auto row.
Mercedes-Benz also has a Park Avenue showroom designed by Frank Lloyd Wright.