Build rapport with your OEM

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Dealers have the power to make OEM image projects go smoothly

DealershipFacilities_165022019At any given time, our team is involved with nearly a hundred image program projects across Canada.  In most cases, we are hired by the OEM and mandated to dealers. 

It is not always an easy position to be in, and our goal with each project is to be a moderator of sorts to ensure that the integrity of the OEM’s image program is maintained. 

At the same time, we want to give the dealer as many options as possible in order to have a project that maximizes their return on investment.

Many dealers say we work with some of the strictest OEM guidelines in the industry.  The perception of dealers is that they must follow guidelines, regardless of how expensive some of the OEM standards are. 

While there is indeed some truth to this, our experience shows that dealers may actually have more choices and power to make suggestions than they realize. 

The critical piece is the method dealers take to obtain OEM approval. The way you present your ideas can make or break the end result, no matter how sensible your request may be.

The upside of getting approval can be significant.  It usually results in cost savings but it can also relate to the functionality of your building. 

Based on my experience, here are six secrets on how to approach your OEM and put yourself in the best position possible to get want you want.


Most of the time, construction and materials can be complicated.  It is important for you to scratch beneath the surface and do some research on what you want to change.

It is especially important that you are comparing apples to apples.  In our experience, most dealer suggestions get rejected because the true cost comparisons presented are not accurate.  A good example is not factoring in labour with the cost of the materials.


 Is there a field representative, executive or even the OEM’s design consultant who is willing and able to listen and advocate on your behalf?  It definitely helps your case if it is not just one voice pushing for changes.

If there are individuals who see the value of your insights even though they may represent the OEM, that is a powerful tool for you to gain credibility with the final decision-makers.


If you are looking to use a new product or method of construction, you likely have a contact who has told you about the product.

Ask that person to provide documentation and examples of how the product has been implemented successfully and is superior to the OEM’s standards.


In general, a letter of opinion from a neutral, third party with a professional designation will give your case a lot of credibility. It may cost you some money for this professional’s time but the cost benefit to you may far outweigh their fees.

OEMs may feel dealers are trying to cut corners so a credible professional will get everyone focused on the product.


For an OEM to change its standards, they usually have to be reviewed by a few people.

But this can work against you during a construction project. Make sure that all of your requests are made reasonably in advance.

Your OEM is unlikely to make a hasty decision on anything, so this could impact your contractor or sub-trades.  Construction delays in many cases can cost more than the proposed savings of making a change.


There are some areas that your OEM will insist on as a required element.  It usually relates to signs, the main entrance, interior tiles, or furniture.

The costs may seem excessive, but in most cases, the OEM has spent a lot of time looking at the long-term sustainability of these elements, as well as the scale of the supplier to ensure high volume capability and the ability to warrant the product.

With these key elements, the likelihood of success is low, and the certainty of frustration is high.

It is definitely not an easy task to change or modify OEM image program standards.  Your new build or renovation is already stressful enough.

However, with just a little time investment and reliance on people around you, it is possible to reap significant financial or practical benefits.  And who knows, your OEM — and its consultants may even thank you for helping to make the program better at the same time!

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