Garages have long been little more than a home’s spare space, ideal for storage, fixing up cars and, for some, a small escape with an old couch and mini fridge. But now, mop up those oil spills because there’s no end to the features that can transform it into something a whole lot more enticing.
The idea of making a garage into a refuge probably originated in postwar America, when magazines like Popular Mechanics were full of do-it-yourself plans for transforming your home place with built-ins. Then, the “man cave” of popular imagination had a big heyday in the 1980s, when garages were fitted with TVs, built-in bars, and a microwave for popcorn. These days, garage retreats are getting a bit more sophisticated—and much more functional.
“Our focus is on transforming garages into clean, bright and functional spaces,” Aaron Cash, a co-founder of Garage Living and head of its franchise systems, said. “People do come to us wanting ‘man caves,’ but that’s not our focus. We’re about recognising the value of and reclaiming the space.”
Garage Living now has 45 franchise locations around the U.S., Canada (where the company is based) and Australia. Makeovers range from $20,000 to $100,000. The goal is to get a family’s accumulated “stuff” off the floor and into the company’s own line of powder-coated cabinets, or mounted on the walls and overhead.
“This is a growing category,” Cash said. “There’s a lot of interest from an affluent clientele with disposable income.”
Not everyone wants their space uncluttered. Today’s popular accessories for garage makeovers include home theatres, high-tech audio equipment, golf simulators, fireplaces with remotes, wine racks, custom flooring (sometimes heated) and lifts that allow a multi-car collection to be displayed in a smaller space.
Meanwhile, for the auto enthusiast, there are tool chests, rotisseries for working on a car’s underside, pressure washers and compressors, engine hoists, work benches, and more.
Storage space is always at a premium. Levrack, launched in 2016, makes a shelving system that suspends its racks from above. The sections, each with three or more shelves, slide together and apart to maximise space.
Ryan Stauffer, the Nebraska-based co-founder of Levrack, said that 80% to 90% of his company’s business is industrial and commercial, but it’s moving increasingly into residential—with strong buy-in from big car collectors like Jay Leno. The Porsche Classic Factory Restorations facility in Atlanta is also a client.
The Wisconsin- and Nebraska-made units make it possible to collect all the stray tools, cleaners and products that typically live in all corners of the garage and store them out of sight, freeing up a lot of floor space. Units come in seven- to 12-foot widths, with varying depth and height. Prices range up to $7,400 for a 12-foot unit.
“We appeal to high-end consumers, people who have a lot of gear,” Stauffer said. “The concept goes back to the 1950s for agriculture, healthcare and other industries, and the racks typically have tracks at the floor level. But in the garage space, where dirt, oil and contamination are an issue, it makes more sense to suspend from the top of the rack.”
Taking the modern garage further still is the Hangar Group, which builds “premier garage condominiums,” where people can store their vehicles in luxury.
The first of these was in Riviera Beach, Florida, completed in 2019—it sold out. And the second is in West Palm Beach, near the airport, with a 2024 completion date. The new facility will have more than 60 units, ranging from 1,500 to 4,500 square feet, with a full-time concierge. There will be a members’ club with golf simulators, a lounge and even a boardroom.
“What we’re doing is a little different,” said Scott Cunningham, founder and CEO of the Hangar Group. “Some of our customers buy as many as three units and furnish them with high-level amenities like $100,000 wine coolers for their million-dollar collections. We get Fortune 500 executives and equity guys. For some, it becomes like a personal museum—but for security reasons a museum with no windows at street level.”
The Hangar obviously appeals to car collectors, some of them with a dozen or more vehicles, and sponsors track days at nearby race meccas Homestead, Sebring and Daytona.
The Palm Beach location is already 70% sold. A third complex will cater to car collectors in the Hamptons, in New York, and ultimately there will be six to eight locations, he said.
“I’m a Ferrari guy at heart,” he said. “Many of our customers are people, like me, who don’t have room for any more cars at home,” he said. “They once traded in their Ferrari 360 for a 430, but now they want to keep them both.” Often, there’s a guitar collection, too.
The Hangar’s concept is similar to another recent phenomenon—full condominiums, with garages attached, located near race tracks—or with their own. Circuit Florida, between Orlando and Tampa, is one of those. The $90 million complex includes a 1.7-mile private track, with 75 two-story condos. The project is now “six weeks out from the asphalt paving,” according to the company. These are units for serious car people—with garages that will accommodate up to six vehicles.
This article originally appeared on Mansion Global.
Chris Dixon, a partner who led the charge, says he has a ‘very long-term horizon’
Concern about electric vehicles’ appeal is mounting as some customers show a reluctance to switch
Auto dealers across many parts of the country say electric vehicles are becoming too hard a sell for buyers worried about the range, reliability and price of these models.
When Paul LaRochelle heard Ford Motor was coming out with an electric pickup truck, the dealer was excited about the prospects for his business.
“We thought we could build a million of them and sell them,” said LaRochelle, a vice president at Sheehy Auto Stores, which sells vehicles from a dozen brands in Virginia, Maryland and Washington, D.C.
The reality has been less positive. On Sheehy’s car lots, LaRochelle says there is a six- to 12-month supply of EVs, compared with a month of gasoline-powered vehicles.
With automakers set to release a barrage of new electric models in the coming years, concerns are mounting among auto retailers about whether the technology will have broader appeal given that many customers are still reluctant to make the switch.
Battery-powered models have been piling up on car lots, dealers say, as EV sales growth has slowed in the U.S. this year. Car companies have been offering a combination of discounts and lower interest-rate deals in an effort to juice demand. But it hasn’t been enough, because buyer reticence extends beyond the price tag, dealers say.
“I’m not hearing the consumer confidence in the technology,” said Mary Rice, dealer principal at Toyota of Greensboro in North Carolina. “People aren’t beating down the door to buy these things, and they all have a different excuse why they aren’t buying one.”
Customers cite concerns about vehicles burning through a battery charge faster in cold weather or not being able to travel as far as they expected on a single charge, dealers say. Potential buyers also worry that chargers aren’t as readily accessible as gas stations or might be broken.
Franchise dealerships fear that the push to roll out new models will inundate them with hard-to-sell vehicles. Research firm S&P Global Mobility said there are 56 EV models for sale in the U.S. this year, and the number is expected to nearly double to 100 next year.
“I start to think, you know maybe we should just all pump the brakes a little bit,” Rice said.
A group of dealers expressed their concerns about the government’s role in pushing electric vehicles in a letter last month to President Biden.
A Toyota Motor spokesman said the majority of dealers have become “increasingly more confident in their ability to sell Toyota EV products.”
At Ford, the company’s electric-vehicle sales are rising, including for its F-150 Lightning pickup, but demand isn’t evenly spread across the country, according to a spokesman.
Dealers say that after selling an EV, they sometimes hear complaints about charging and the vehicles not always meeting their advertised range. In some cases, customers seek to return them to the dealer shortly after buying them.
“We have a steady number of clients that have attempted to or flat out returned their car,” said Sheehy’s LaRochelle.
While EVs remain a small but rapidly expanding part of the new-car market, the pace of growth has slowed this year. Electric-vehicle sales increased 48% in the first 11 months, compared with a 69% jump during the same period in 2022, according to Motor Intelligence. Sales remain concentrated in a few states, with California accounting for the largest chunk, S&P Global Mobility data found.
The cooling growth has raised broader questions in the industry about whether car companies face a temporary hurdle or a longer-term demand challenge. Automakers have invested billions of dollars to bring more EV models to the market, and many analysts and car executives say they remain optimistic that sales will continue to expand.
“Although the rate of growth has slowed recently, EV demand is clearly moving in the right direction,” said General Motors Chief Executive Mary Barra on a recent conference call with analysts. A combination of more affordable model options and better charging infrastructure would help encourage more people to buy electric vehicles, she said.
There are also varying views within the dealer community about how quickly buyers will adopt the technology.In hot spots for electric-vehicle demand, such as Los Angeles, dealers say their battery-powered models are some of their top sellers. Those popular EV markets also tend to have more mature public charging networks.
Selling an electric car or truck outside of those demand centres is proving more difficult.
Longtime EV owner Carmella Roehrig thought she was ready to go full-electric and sold her backup gasoline vehicle. But after the 62-year-old North Carolina resident found herself stranded last year in a rural area of South Carolina, she changed her mind. Roehrig’s Tesla Model S got a flat tire, but none of the stores in the area carried tires for a Tesla. She ended up paying a worker at a nearby shop to drive her home.
Roehrig still has her Tesla but bought a pickup truck for long road trips.
Tesla didn’t respond to a request for comment.
“I have these conversations with people who say we’ll all be in EVs in 15 years. I say: ‘I’m not so sure. I’ve tried to do it,’” Roehrig said. “I think you need a gas backup.”
Customers who want to ditch their gas vehicle for environmental reasons are sometimes hesitant, said Mickey Anderson, president of Baxter Auto Group, which owns dealerships in Kansas, Nebraska and Colorado.
“We’re in the Colorado Springs market. If this is your sole mode of transportation, and you’re in a market in extremes of elevation and temperature, the actual range is very limited,” Anderson said. “It makes it extremely impractical.”
Dealers representing around 4,000 stores across the U.S. signed the letter in November addressed to Biden, saying the administration’s proposed auto-emissions regulations designed to promote electric-vehicle sales are unrealistic. The signatories ranged from stores owned by family businesses to publicly held giants such as AutoNation and Lithia Motors.
“Some customers are in the market for electric vehicles, and we are thrilled to sell them. But the majority of customers are simply not ready to make the change,” the letter said.
Some carmakers are pushing back EV-rollout plans. GM said in mid-October that it would delay the opening of an electric pickup plant by a year to late 2025. In response to weaker-than-expected consumer demand, Ford said in late October that it would defer $12 billion of planned spending on electric-vehicle investment.
Since September, dealers on average took more than two months to sell an EV, compared with 40 days for all vehicles, according to car-shopping website Edmunds.
While discounts have helped boost sales of some electric vehicles, they also have led to repercussions for some current owners because it reduces the value of their vehicles, dealers say.
“Most people don’t have the confidence to buy an EV and know what it will be worth in 10-15 years,” said Rice from the Toyota dealership.
It may take some time for the industry to adjust because it is still in an early stage of switching to electric vehicles, Sheehy’s LaRochelle said.
“We’re asking for this market to grow organically,” he said.
Chris Dixon, a partner who led the charge, says he has a ‘very long-term horizon’