Earth Week Guest Post: When “Eco-Friendly” Equals “Customer-Friendly”

How One Dealer’s Environmental Upgrades Boost Business
Apr 20, 2016 2:55 PM ET

By Don Elliott. Don is the owner of Sunshine Chevrolet in Arden, North Carolina and Don Elliott Chevrolet in Wharton, Texas, He has worked in the auto industry for more than four decades, beginning his career at General Motors in Chevrolet marketing. 

As the president and owner of two General Motors’ Green Dealer facilities – Sunshine Chevrolet in Arden, North Carolina and Don Elliott Autoworld in Wharton, Texas – I believe the smart thing to do today is embrace energy conservation.

Environmental upgrades are possible whether building a new facility or upgrading an existing one.

In North Carolina, I moved to a new site and built from the ground up. In Texas, I was remodeling a 1948 Quonset hut building that I had purchased in 1978 and updated and expanded in 1999.

When I was planning for the new Sunshine Chevrolet facility that opened in December 2013, I felt it was absolutely necessary to be as environmentally conscious as economically feasible. Two years later, the hard work paid off as Sunshine Chevrolet was named America’s first recipient of General Motors’ Green Dealer Recognition program outside of a small pilot program.

After a thorough review of Sunshine Chevrolet’s environmental credentials, GM found that we had a proven track record in areas such as energy reduction, renewable energy use, water conservation efforts, recycling and community outreach.

We implemented several environmental features, including installing LED lighting, recycling most onsite water, developing a recycling program for shop materials, and investing in high-efficiency heating and cooling and low-energy vending machines. We even positioned the building on the property in a way that limited direct sun infiltration while maximizing natural interior light.

I am proud that the finished product is not only the most eco-friendly GM dealership in Western North Carolina, but also the one of the most customer-friendly. 

After completing the facility in North Carolina, I turned my attention to our Texas facility updates. 

Because a remodel of a 1948 building offered fewer choices than new construction, I was more limited in what I could do to make this facility more “green,” but found options to  make the dealership more energy efficient. Some of these features include:

  • Energy efficient LED lighting on both the interior and exterior of the building
  • Removal of all vending machines in the dealership
  • A “foam sandwich” metal roof providing high “R” values
  • High “e” rated double pane sealed windows with argon gas
  • Low volume bathroom units
  • Creation of semi-annual HVAC maintenance checks
  • Strategic alignment of showroom windows to reduce heat penetration while providing increased natural light for all customer areas
  • Addition of an annual outreach program with local young people to show them how businesses can be more environmentally friendly

I was not sure the dealership would be able to meet the criteria as a Green Dealer because so many of the building’s materials had been chosen in 1948. However, as I went through the Green Dealer checklist, I was reminded that our business practices are as important as our building materials.  Because I added a plan for a semi-annual comprehensive HVAC inspection, and already have stringent practices in place, such as diligently recycling in the office and in the shop, Don Elliott Autoworld was able to qualify.

In early 2016, I was proud and thrilled to learn Don Elliott Autoworld became Texas’ first GM Green Dealer. 

I did not seek Green Dealer recognition at either dealership because it is the “in” or politically-correct thing to do. I simply believe that embracing energy efficiency is the right thing to do. My customers appreciate this commitment and find that an environmentally sound facility makes for a more appealing retail experience.