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Building for the Future for Automobile Dealers


With a greater number of dealership facilities being constructed or reconstructed, partially as a result of manufacturers continually pushing image reconstruction projects on dealers, it is no wonder that dealer premises are often in a state of change. This month, we will offer suggestions for you to keep in mind before and during your next construction, expansion, or renovation project.

Key Security

During periods of renovation, increased traffic and confusion can often lead to greater instances of theft, therefore a secure new vehicle key storage location should be established; preferably in a room or a closet located away from main public traffic routes. This room or closet should be fitted with a substantial steel door, and the door should be secured with a self-closing device and a mechanical-type push button combination lock. This will create a room which is more secure, whenever it is not in use.

Consideration should also be given to the location where second sets of vehicle keys are to be stored. It is equally important that second sets of keys are stored in such a way that they are kept constantly locked. When selecting a location for the second sets of keys, consider who will and should have access to these keys, and attempt to limit or restrict access where possible.

Where will you store customer keys before and after a work order is completed? It is important to remember that you are charged with the care and custody of your customer vehicles, while onsite at your dealership, and it is your responsibility to securely store the vehicle keys at all times. A secure key drop for overnight deliveries and early bird customers should also be included in your plans. Again, you are responsible for the secure storage of your customer keys.

To further improve security, many dealerships have moved to electronic key control systems. These systems offer a host of key and inventory management reports and techniques in addition to helping to reduce lost or missing keys.

Building Security and Fire Protection

A complete intrusion alarm featuring motion detectors; glass break detectors; heat, smoke, and rate of rise detectors; and monitored by an Underwriters Laboratories of Canada (ULC)-listed central station, should be included in all buildings and storage facilities. Although most insurers require heat, smoke, and rate of rise detectors, they are not required by code in some jurisdictions. If the building will be fitted with automatic sprinklers, the alarm should also monitor water flow at the sprinkler riser. Dealers should consider who will have access to the buildings as key holders, and who will respond to an alarm event. Bear in mind, insurers prefer that a response company respond to any building alarms.

Many dealerships have installed card access, or card reader systems as a way of controlling both access to the building, and access to departments within the building. These systems also reduce the need for multiple key holders, and the possible need for re-keying a building in the future.

A dedicated room or cage should be included in the parts department plans for overnight parts deliveries. This can often be accommodated for with an additional alarm zone and user code on an alarm system keypad.

Most dealerships today have at least one fire partition between departments inside of the building. Any opening in a fire partition will be protected with fire doors or fire shutters. It is important to consider customer traffic flow as well as fire partitions when designing facilities. These doors will need to remain in their normally closed position at all times with any tracks for fire shutters kept free and clear.

Serious consideration should also be given to a pre-action, no-water suppression system for your computer server room. These systems have become exceedingly popular in recent years as they are non-toxic to humans and will not harm computer equipment in the event of a fire. 

Lot Security

With regards to lot security, lot lighting is still considered the number one deterrent to auto and component theft at dealerships across the country. Most manufacturers now require more than adequate lighting of lots, but it is important to remember that compounds, auxiliary locations, and back lots should also be well-lit.

Serious consideration should be given to the installation of fixed perimeter protection either in the form of fences, posts, or substantial architectural rocks. The rocks or posts should be a minimum of 36 inches in height, and should not be located more than 36 inches apart at centre. Entrances should be fitted with substantial gates. Since the gates will likely be the weakest link in the perimeter, hinge pins on all gates should be spot-welded in order to prevent easy removal, and the padlocks used to secure gates to lots and compounds should be of superior quality.

Supervised digital camera systems are continually improving and coming down in price. Even if the dealership does not plan to install cameras, at the time, it is always a good idea to run the wiring during construction. When installing a camera system keep in mind the importance of advertising the presence of that system.


New ULC-listed, above-ground, double-walled waste oil tanks should be purchased or leased as required, as most insurers will only extend pollution coverage on tanks for 15 years from the date of manufacture. Any such tank should be located in a low traffic area if possible, and fitted with substantial crash posts in order to prevent vehicular impact with the tank. Tanks should also be fitted with an audible overflow alarm.

More dealerships getting into the business of winter tire storage. Appropriate storage space and protection should be planned for. Where will you store tires? How many will you plan to store? Future growth of this business should also be considered.

Construction or renovation projects can be both exciting and stressful for dealers at the same time. It is important to consider the insurance benefits and long-term savings possible when investing dollars in the construction of your facility.