How a Toyota dealership built a canopy to protect inventory and generate electricity

From June 2018 through September 2019, four major hailstorms pelted the inventory at Stapp Interstate Toyota north of Denver.

Although insurance covered the damages, its Toyota Financial Services-preferred provider chose to walk away after Stapp’s policy expired, citing the high risk in an area prone to such severe weather. When the store in Frederick, Colo., moved to another insurer, its deductibles and premiums soared.

Faced with rising costs — and the ever-present prospect of more damaging storms — Dealer Principal Brion Stapp decided to take a seven-figure gamble in the form of a 53,000-square-foot hail canopy that includes 720 solar panels.

Stapp reasoned that insurance costs would fall once providers saw the reduced risk to his inventory. Aside from that, he thought, the dealership could recoup some money by generating its own electricity.

An Obama administration-era solar tax credit, as well as a Trump administration depreciation opportunity, helped with the costs, and construction began in early 2020. Despite a pandemic and semiconductor shortage that have depleted the amount of inventory needing protection, the bet is paying off.

“Even though we have very few cars on our lot right now, we’re still very, very happy with the decision we made in terms of a short-term, long-term and customer-experience perspective,” Stapp told Automotive News.

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