Virginia Auto Mall Installs LED System to Boost Curb Appeal

AEL Autobahn LED luminaires help sell vehicles after dark

Shelor Motor Mile wants to sell vehicles even after its sales team goes home. Based in Christiansburg, Virginia, Shelor is a multi-brand new vehicle auto mall and Virginia’s largest locally-owned used car operation, with all new and used vehicles at one location.

“We have car lots on either side of a major highway at an interstate interchange, with restaurants, service stations, a motel and another auto dealership nearby,” said John Jordan, Energy Manager for Shelor Motor Mile. “Cars on our lots must have curb appeal in order to attract drive-by and drive-on shoppers after dark.”

Shelor’s 70 acres of new and used vehicles were previously illuminated by 400-watt shoebox-type metal halide fixtures installed on 30-foot square-shaped steel poles. The dealership retrofitted the high intensity discharge (HID) system with Autobahn LED luminaires from American Electric Lighting (AEL) to boost illumination levels and improve lighting uniformity.

“One of our dealerships adjoins a fast food restaurant that has very high light levels in its parking lot,” Jordan said. “Our lower-intensity lighting created a “dark island” effect for the dealership, and if drivers didn’t look to the right as they drove by, they could miss that car lot entirely.”

Shelor Motor Mile was familiar with the performance advantages of LED lighting after installing LED fixtures in some of its buildings in the past. Jordan said he selected the Autobahn luminaires based on the fixtures’ pricing and a prior relationship with the AEL representative, who designed the lighting system for Shelor’s Toyota dealership the previous year.

Each Autobahn LED luminaire has 80 LEDs and draws 280 watts of power compared to the 470 watts each metal halide luminaire drew.

Shively Electric, of Roanoke Virginia, installed the fixtures, mounting the luminaires on top of the existing poles using a custom bracket that Shively custom fabricated. Poles are mounted on 3-foot concrete bases or on islands with a curb and grassy strip to provide green spaces among the lots.

“The Autobahn fixtures are well balanced and extremely simple to install,” said Richard Shively, president, Shively Electric. “The luminaires are well constructed yet lightweight enough that we could easily adapt them to the existing poles.”

The Shelor car lots are paved, with half of them serving the dealership’s new and used car operations and the remainder used for service parking and car storage. The lots were built at different times as Shelor purchased more land; many of the lots are broken into segments, with pole spacing varying.

Shelor installed a total of 160 Autobahn LED luminaires, replacing the metal halide fixtures one-for-one in some areas, with two, three or four luminaires installed per pole as needed, depending on the location.

“Auto dealerships concentrate their lighting in the front rows of their lots so their most attractive vehicles really stand out to anyone driving past,” Jordan said. “Impulse customers are more likely to come into the dealership when they spot a vehicle they like from the road.”

Multiple fixtures are mounted on poles that illuminate the dealership entrance and the deeper lots, where pole spacing is especially wide. Fixture mounting configuration varies, with fixtures installed on each side of the poles and some mounted in a cross pattern to provide the required uniformity.

Illumination levels are 11 footcandles in Shelor’s front rows with a maximum to minimum ratio of 1.6 to 1. The dealership entrance is 5 footcandles and interior rows range from 3 to 10 footcandles, depending on the location. The LED luminaires’ CRI is 70 to showcase the vehicles’ true colors.

“The car lots are much brighter and the lighting creates a better environment for selling vehicles at night,” Jordan said. “Many of our sales occur after the sun goes down—especially in the winter.”

Autobahn fixtures are illuminated until 1 a.m. and controlled by a clock. Luminaires are ROAM enabled so Shelor can eventually install Acuity Brands’ patented streetlight monitoring system to remotely monitor and control the luminaires. Each pole will have a motion sensor to turn the luminaires on if someone drives onto the car lot after hours.

Shelor will maintain the fixtures, with the Autobahn luminaires expected to operate 100,000 hours—or more than 20 years in this application—without maintenance. The metal halide luminaires, in comparison, required maintenance every two to three years.

“The Autobahn LED system provides quality lighting with very little maintenance,” Jordan said. “Our sales people love it—they feel the lighting provides us a tremendous selling advantage.”