PROGRESS: Dealers move ahead with creating South Carson auto row | NevadaAppeal.com

PROGRESS: Dealers move ahead with creating South Carson auto row

BRIAN DUGGAN
bduggan@nevadaappeal.com

Some of the biggest projects to break ground in Carson City this year included three new auto dealerships along South Carson Street, which are expected to be open by mid-2010.

The auto dealerships, including a Toyota store owned by Dick Campagni and Subaru and Honda dealerships owned by Michael Hohl, are the result of years of negotiations with city officials for loans to keep the businesses and their tax revenue in Carson City.

“The auto row that the city put together for that was very important to us because it helped us defray expenses,” said Hohl, who is expecting to open his dealerships by summer. “And they’ve given us a loan that allows us to move forward.”

Hohl said other city improvements helped the auto dealers, such as renovating Curry Street, which runs behind them.

By the end of next year, Hohl will have received $4.8 million that will be paid back over 20 years through sales tax revenue. He also owns the General Motors and Chevrolet dealership on South Carson Street near his RV dealership.

Campagni’s new Toyota dealership will accompany his Ford, Mazda and Hyundai dealerships.

“I’m excited about the new store for two reasons, one for my employees because they’ll have a new state-of-the-art dealership to work at,” said Campagni, who is expecting to open the new Toyota dealership in March. “Secondly for my customers who have been very loyal and have returned to us because they’ll now have a wonderful place that they can come and enjoy.”

Steve Christian, general manager of Carson Dodge and Jeep on South Carson Street, said the completion of Carson City’s auto row will help business by making it more convenient for car shoppers to visit and compare dealerships.

Mayor Bob Crowell said in a Nevada Appeal story earlier this year that the auto dealerships are responsible for 30 to 40 percent of Carson City’s sales tax revenue.

“They are a great part of how the rest of this town lives,” Crowell said. “We wouldn’t be able to have the services we do without having good quality auto dealers.”

Meanwhile, the auto industry has faced a difficult year in light of bankruptcies for domestic auto makers and subsequent government bailouts.

“2009 has been a very tough year for everybody, and so few people have been untouched by the recession,” Christian said. “We’re looking forward to 2010.”

As for the Cash for Clunkers federal program, which gave people financial incentives to trade in an older vehicle for a new, more fuel-efficient one, Campagni said it may have attracted people to buy cars but its effect on the economy could have been overstated.

Christian said the program helped relieve his dealerships of a large inventory of small cars purchased during the gas-price spikes in the summer of 2008 that weren’t selling during the peak of the recession. Now, the dealerships are focusing on trucks and SUVs, which “are selling fairly well,” Christian said.

Hohl said 2009 was an unprecedented year for the auto industry, which included bankruptcies and dealership closures throughout the country.

He said he combined his Chevrolet dealership with his General Motors dealership in April, a move that he said helped him in the long run.

“That allowed me to combine two stores into one, cutting out one overhead expense structure,” Hohl said.

As for 2010, Hohl said, a recovery in Nevada may take more time, but “I think 2010 will be better than 2009. But will we be back to 2005 levels? I don’t think so.”

“The positive on ’09 is it forced us to be more efficient,” Christian said. “In that regard, it’s taught us how to be more productive. To get by with less and to cut waste. Put our house in order.”