Showing Confidence: Dealer Opens New Automotive Campus
The relocation of Southern Pines Chevy Buick GMC from U.S. 1 to U.S. 15-501 is done, a $4 million project completed as U.S. auto sales continue to rebound amid improved consumer confidence.
“Our timing could not have been better,” said Tom Holderfield, a partner in the dealership. “There’s definitely an uptick in the market. People are buying cars because they want to, not because they have to.”
Holderfield and his partners purchased the dealership from Toby Wells in 2006, agreeing with General Motors at the time to relocate to 15-501.
“This wasn’t a spur-of-the-moment thought. We’ve been planning this for six years. GM has always wanted to be located on 15-501,” he said.
The new dealership opened April 23 and enables Holderfield to offer seven brands — Toyota, Scion, Hyundai and Kia are the others — on a nine-acre automotive campus that includes Pinehurst Toyota and Pinehurst Hyundai.
The 17,000-square-foot building was built to GM’s specifications under its Essential Brand Elements program, which also includes initiatives to improve training and customer service and standardize websites.
“We’re one of the first dealerships in the state to have this type of building,” said John Beaver, managing partner at Southern Pines Chevy Buick GMC. “It’s state-of-the-art, but GM was specific about everything, even the tile on the floor and the pattern of the tile.”
Beaver said about one-third of the space is devoted to retail, while the majority houses the year-round climate-controlled parts and services department that has 12 bays.
“It’s the most labor-intensive part of our operation, so we want our employees to be comfortable while they work,” he said.
The recent economic downturn wiped out hundreds of American auto dealers across many brands, but Holderfield and Beaver are proud to have only lost employees to attrition.
“We did not have to lay off or terminate a single employee,” Holderfield said.
The new dealership currently employs 37 people, but Beaver expects to add up to a dozen employees within the next year.
“We obviously expect an increase in business because the location is better, the economy is better and this campus is more of a retail destination,” he said. “With all those things coming together, we feel that a 20 percent to 25 percent increase is reasonable.”
Although there are now more than 500 new and used cars among the seven brands, Beaver feels that the three GM flags will hold their own.
“We feel we’ll win more of those battles than we lose because of the product,” he said.
The relocation was completed in the midst of a recovery in industry sales and by GM, which emerged from bankruptcy in 2009.
U.S. car and truck sales bottomed out that year and have risen each of the past two years. For all of 2012, auto sales could reach 14 million new vehicles, analysts say. Last year sales totaled 12.8 million, well below the 2000 peak of 17.3 million, but a significant improvement from 10.4 million in 2009.
GM retail sales — those to individual buyers — were up 18 percent in 2011. By the end of this year, GM plans to introduce all-new or significantly refreshed vehicles in segments that represent 60 percent of the U.S. retail light vehicle industry.
“It’s very promising,” Holderfield said. “We had our best two months ever with GM in February and March. The same can be said for Toyota, and we’ve been here 26 years with that brand.”
In fact, Pinehurst Toyota has been at the same location since Holderfield opened the doors in 1986.
“Back then, 15-501 was a two-lane road and Murray Hill Road became a dirt road once you crossed 15-501 coming from U.S. 1,” he said. “This new dealership shows our confidence in the county and our confidence in GM. We feel very fortunate to be in a growing county that has been so supportive.”
Wells, who still owns the land and buildings on U.S. 1, could not be reached for comment Thursday about his future plans for the property.
Contact Ted M. Natt Jr. at (910) 693-2474 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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