What started as Pinehurst Toyota in 1986 is now Pinehurst Auto Group, comprising Pinehurst Toyota-Mitsubishi-Kia, Pinehurst Buick-Pontiac-GMC, and the group's most recent purchase of Central Carolina Nissan of Southern Pines.
Pinehurst Auto Group has been operating what is now Pinehurst Nissan since Dec. 21, and more dealership openings are planned.
"The opportunity presented itself through just a casual inquiry on our part, and we found out that we could possibly buy Central Carolina Nissan of Southern Pines," explains Pinehurst Auto Group's managing partner, Tom Holderfield. "After a couple of months of negotiations and putting a buy-sell agreement together, plus obtaining factory approval, we were able to complete the transaction."
The inquiry was made of Bob Strickland, who owns Central Carolina Nissan but lives in New Bern.
"That was the unique thing," says Holderfield. "Bob was the only absentee new-vehicle franchise dealership owner in Moore County, even though we're starting to see more consolidation into dealer groups."
John Beaver, general manager of Pinehurst Toyota-Mitsubishi-Kia, adds: "It's tough competition all the way around in this area. Everyone works their stores every day. Bob felt the store wasn't maximizing its potential because he wasn't there. He has dealerships in New Bern, Sanford, Monroe and here. Distance-wise, he was really stretched."
Increase in Sales
On Oct. 30, Pinehurst Auto Group was able to buy the Toby Wells Buick-Pontiac-GMC dealership on U.S. 1.
"That was just another opportunity," says Holderfield.
Beaver says the dealership was already a well-run business, "so we thought we'd just turn the lights on a little brighter, and just make a few minor changes. We feel really positive about GMC's products."
Since Pinehurst Auto Group assumed ownership, sales have increased by 20 to 25 percent, says Holderfield. "Of course, we've also spent more dollars on advertising and promotions -- and time in developing sales processes."
Another aspect that made the GMC store attractive to Pinehurst Auto Group is its body and collision shop.
"That gave us our first auto collision center," says Beaver. "Now we can take care of our customers' cars from cradle to the auto graveyard."
Through Pinehurst Nissan, Pinehurst Auto Group hopes to achieve the same level of sales that Central Carolina Nissan maintained: between 75 and 90 new and used auto sales monthly.
"It's a prominent building in a great location," says Holderfield. "We want to build on that business the right way, through competitive sales and excellent customer service."
Holderfield adds that Beaver is ready to take on a more prominent role as managing partner of the Nissan and GMC stores.
"And it's really presented us with some growth opportunity," he says. "By looking at certain efficiencies in numbers, we're able to centralize quite a few of our administrative operations, saving us money, and in turn, saving our customers money."
Kevin Murray will manage sales at Pinehurst Nissan. At Pinehurst Toyota, Murray was a strong sales representative.
"I just kind of grew up around car sales my whole life," he says. "I got out of college and got right into it."
Murray has big plans for the new Nissan dealership.
"We have a great opportunity to expand," says Murray. "We just want to have the same family atmosphere we have at Toyota. Our plans are to make this the king on the block. We want to come in and make a good name for ourselves, do everything we can to make our neighbors happy and do good business."
Personally, Murray is proud of the accomplishment he's made at just 26 years of age.
"To have this opportunity," he says, "words can't express the gratitude I have."
Auto Family Dynasty
Kevin Murray's father, Vann, roomed with Holderfield and hired him into the auto business in 1975. Vann sold his Honda-Chevrolet dealership in 1999 to Steve Jones, when he thought he'd retire. However, he came back shortly after that to manage Pinehurst Auto Group's pre-owned car sales.
Holderfield became partners with Bobby Murray in Sept. 1986, when Pinehurst Toyota opened.
"We first started selling cars out of an office trailer," Holderfield says. "The building wasn't complete until December. John started in early 1987, and we added the Mitsubishi franchise in 1989."
Bobby Murray sold his interest in 1997 to Phil Smith of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., current partner with Holderfield and Beaver. In 1999, Kia was added to the group's auto mix.
"John and I have been here all these 20 years," says Holderfield, "so there's no absentee ownership here; the day-to-day operations take place with local people."
"We have seven out of the 10 original employees we hired in 1986," says Beaver. "The turnover rate in sales is usually pretty high, but we probably have more stability than most dealerships."
The Holderfield and Beaver families are both involved in the business. Holderfield's brothers Mike and Dwight, as well as his son, Chad, are involved, while Beaver's son Justin, just became involved in the newly centralized administrative operations.
"We've all been together for a long time," says Beaver.
Pinehurst Auto Group also opened a Hyundai dealership in a newly remodeled showroom next to Pinehurst Toyota within a matter of days. Another showroom will house its current Mitsubishi line as well as the addition of Subaru sometime in February.
Grand opening events for Pinehurst Buick-Pontiac-GMC and Pinehurst Nissan are underway. The Hyundai dealership will host grand openings toward the end of March.
More like this story