Audi wants to tap in to the

Capital Region luxury cars

All sugared up. That's how I usually leave Goldstein Subaru, thanks to the hot cocoa machine in the waiting area. This time, when I arrived, the cocoa machine was gone. The waiting area was gone. A golf cart whisked customers around the lot while the dealership underwent $5 million in renovations that include a drive-in express lube and showroom expansion.

"Everything's going to be state-of-the-art, " says saleswoman Elizabeth Dimick. "We're going to have more TVs and touch technology. We have WiFi. We offer free coffee, hot dogs and popcorn. We have free lifetime car washes and a free lifetime limited powertrain warranty. No other dealership does that."

Curious to see what other automobile dealerships are doing to attract and maintain business in this age of Internet car purchases, I stopped at four more along Route 5. Renovations were also in progress at Metro Ford, where a giant, fan-inflated, pencil-shaped wind sock dude danced by the roadside.

"In the old system, customers would park outside and walk down to the service write-up area, get written up and be walked to the customer waiting area, " explains Fixed Operations Manager Bill Thorpe. "Now, they'll drive up and overhead doors will automatically go up. There will be five service advisers waiting. The customer will never go outside. There will also be a 60-inch big-screen TV with a gas fireplace underneath. It's something that we felt we needed to do for the customers. Everybody's super busy, so if you have to spend a few hours, if it can be as convenient and as comfortable as possible, hopefully the experience will be a little bit better."

The automobile business is different than it used to be, says Thorpe, who has been in it for more than 30 years. "Today's vehicle goes much farther, " he says. "There's a bigger percentage of customers with vehicles over 100, 000 miles that they're servicing at a dealership. The amount of vehicles being sold is less. We sell tires at 10 percent over cost because we want to retain our customers."

For the past 10 years, Metro Ford has offered full-time shuttle service for customers whose vehicles are under repair. "From 8-5, Monday through Friday, it will drive you wherever you've got to go, " says Thorpe. "We have some older clientele who would prefer to wait at home than wait here. We'll take you within a 45-minute radius and back."

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