In the fast lane — Local car dealerships rapidly expanding

Pocatello Nissan Kia, left, and Phil Meador Toyota, background.
Pocatello Nissan Kia, left, and Phil Meador Toyota, background.

Pocatello’s economy continues to see progress, which means so too are the local car dealerships.

LIthia Chrysler Jeep Dodge RAM of Pocatello, which is located on Pole Line Road, is constructing a new dealership in Chubbuck, and general manager Reed Garrett anticipates the building will be completed by the end of December 2016.

The new building will boast a new lounge-like waiting area, drive-in service areas and a children’s play area. The new dealership will utilize a smaller space but will be more efficient.

While Lithia’s current building has served the company well, now’s the time to move into a more modern space.

“The dealership we’re in now, it was good for a long time,” Garrett said. “But the way newer dealerships are set up, everything is a lot easter to access. … We’re making the investments and spending those dollars locally because we want to make sure we can provide a better experience, better customer service to our customers. We think it’s time we have a more convenient location, a more state-of-the-art, comfortable atmosphere. It’s just time for us.”

Dodge Lithia's new location is currently under construction.
Lithia Chrysler Jeep Dodge RAM’s new location is currently under construction.

Garrett said Lithia plans on holding a small opening in the winter time before hosting a large, grand opening once the weather gets nicer in the spring. The new dealership, Garrett says, will further the success Lithia’s been experiencing lately.

“We’re having a great year,” he said. “We anticipate that’s going to continue. The economy in Pocatello is nice and strong. One of the things that we notice about the Pocatello economy, we’re really a hard-working town with kind of a blue-collar feel to it, and that’s representative in the products that we sell, too.”

Pocatello Nissan Kia recently opened a new location on Flandro Drive, and business development manager Wade Wellard has overseen the progress the store has made.

“As the economy improves, people have more disposable income,” Wellard said. “They like nicer and newer vehicles, and they put money into the cars they currently have to keep them in good running condition.”

Hirning Buick GMC.
Hirning Buick GMC.

While cars are leaving the showroom floor at a high rate, Wellard has also seen a massive increase of vehicles come into the dealership for service. Pocatello Nissan Kia is installing new lifts to keep up with servicing demands.

And even though the dealership has opened across the street from the newly built Phil Meador Toyota, business is still good. The competition, Wellard says, pushes everybody.

“Your competition always makes you better,” he said. “You have to try a little harder and hone your own business skills and your own business philosophies.”

Joe Leedgaard, general sales manager at Phil Meador Toyota, couldn’t agree more, adding that having two separate car dealerships down Flandro Drive has helped increase traffic. 

Leedgaard also said his store’s massive inventory has helped increase sales by almost 7 percent.

“We’ve been lucky with getting inventory,” Leedgaard said. “We’ve had a great selection of the new vehicles because of our new building. … We’ve changed our strategy of being very aggressive with our new car pricing, and that’s helped a lot.”

The two dealerships that line Flandro Drive don’t have the lone strangleholds on the Pocatello vehicle market. Courtesy Ford & Lincoln is also on Flandro Drive just off Yellowstone Avenue. Farther down Yellowstone are dealerships such as Phil Meador Subaru, Teton Honda of Pocatello, Cole Chevrolet and Hirning Buick GMC. Teton Hyundai of Pocatello is just off Pole Line Road.

Cole Chevrolet.
Cole Chevrolet.

Robert Allen Auto, which specializes in gently used cars, opened in May 2016 and sits on Fifth Avenue in Pocatello Nissan Kia’s old building.

Val Castillo, general manager at Robert Allen, says business is gradually blooming as folks catch wind of what the dealership is about.

“Our niche is used cars between the year we’re at and four years old,” Castillo said. “Consumer Reports came out with a report that said the best cars to buy are those that are two to three years old. … Why pay more on a new car when you can save thousands on a slightly used car?”

The plethora of dealerships to choose from creates the sense of a buyers’ market in the area as car sellers vie for customers.

“The dealerships become so aggressive,” said Pat Murphy, general sales manager at Hirning Buick GMC. “How do we treat our customers? Do we ram and jam or do we treat them as a family member and make it a lifetime experience? It’s important. (Buying a car) is not like buying a pair of shoes. A vehicle is the second-most expensive thing a person will ever buy. … We treat you from now until forever.”

While sales and servicing are both going strong, Murphy believes this is just the beginning. If individuals continue finding themselves with more financial freedom to purchase an ever-increasing assortment of cars that are getting safer and more fuel-efficient, a steady incline of sales can be expected. 

“This is just the tip of the iceberg right now,” Murphy said. “The economy is just going to get better, and I’ve been doing this for 35 years, so I’ve seen the ups and downs.”

Murphy continued, “A guy once told me, ‘Once you see horses go up and down the street, you know the car business is bad.’ I haven’t seen it yet.”

Post Author: David Ashby

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