Blog : Seacoast Volkswagen's green efforts don’t end with cars off the lot

By Jim Cavan | Mar 29, 2011 | in

When hybrid cars first broke onto the scene in the early 2000s, green-minded consumers and environmentalists lauded the impressive step forward for the auto industry.

Now, nearly a decade later, it seems like every manufacturer has hopped aboard the hybrid train. That includes Volkswagen, which offers a growing variety of super-efficient hybrids and diesels.

But if you ask Doug Miles, General Manager at Seacoast Volkswagen in Greenland, his dealership’s green footprint doesn’t end with the cars driven off the lot.

“We’re really lucky to be in a position where we can be an early adopter of new, green technologies, both with our cars and with our energy use,” explains Miles. “Most car dealerships in this economy have had a tough go of it, but we’re fortunate enough to have been in the market of fuel efficient vehicles for a long time.”

For starters, anyone driving by the Route 33 dealership would be hard pressed to miss the giant, 35-foot wind turbine located in front of the showroom parking lot. Installed by Seabrook-based Waterline Alternative Energies, the turbine is the first of its kind to be installed at a car dealership in New Hampshire.

Then there’s the forthcoming 80-panel, 19.2 kilowatt solar PV system – also purchased from Waterline – to be placed on the showroom’s expansive roof. The new array is expected to generate 30 percent of the dealership’s electricity needs on sunny days.

Miles says the dealership is simply awaiting word on federal and state grants for the project, with plans to “break ground” sometime in the spring.

Beyond the big ticket items, Seacoast Volkswagen has instituted a number of smaller green initiatives since moving from Portsmouth to Greenland seven years ago, including retrofitting all 60 parking lot lamps with LED bulbs – in the process slashing electricity from the lamps by 75%.

Inside the building, a comprehensive recycling program – which includes using the garage’s waste oil to heat the premises, recycling all light bulbs, and reusing wash bay water through a water recycling unit – has helped reduce even further Seacoast Volkswagen’s carbon footprint.

According to Miles, Seacoast Volkswagen’s green initiatives mirror a wider company policy that even includes its manufacturing practices. To that end, last summer Volkswagen completed construction of a 2-million square foot, billion dollar plant in Chattanooga, Tennessee.

Buttressed by thousands of acres of trail-laden open spaces, the new plant employees decidedly 21st century technologies and practices that maximize efficiency while helping reduce overall environmental impact. Recognizing that most of the pollution from a car plant comes from the paint shop, all cars are dipped in paint rather than sprayed, reducing both water and chemical usage by 20%.

What’s more, the excess paint – normally diluted in 50,000 gallons of water – will instead be mixed with limestone powder, where it can then be sent to a cement kiln to be turned into project-ready cement.

Even the cypress shipping pallets are donated locally to make furniture and art projects.

Despite the obvious difference between a giant factory and a dealership, Miles wants customers to know that – far from being its own green island – Seacoast Volkswagen’s sustainable strides reflect an ever-growing ethos throughout the company.

And just as the Chattanooga plant serves as a green template for other manufacturers, Miles sees Seacoast Volkswagen in much the same light.

“A lot of Volkswagen dealerships are sitting back and waiting to see how we do with a lot of these initiatives,” quips Miles. “A lot of people don’t want to be the guinea pig, but we’ve been fortunate enough to be able to take that risk despite the tough economy.”

But while the dealership’s sustainability-driven initiatives might speak directly to the equally eco-minded nature of the local clientele, for Doug Miles, going green also means saving a little of it, too.

“A definite side benefit of all these features is absolutely the marketing and cost factors,” explains Miles. “The paybacks are reasonably fast, especially for the LED lighting, and that made the decisions that much easier.”

“At the end of the day we still want to run a profitable business, and we’re fortunate to be able to balance that with the environmental side of it.”