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Suzuki dealership plans run out of gas

Dave Frank
Appeal Staff Writer

Plans for a new energy-efficient auto dealership in Carson City have run out of gas during a slow sales year for the industry.

The property and plans for the proposed south Carson City Suzuki dealership are now up for sale for $1.4 million.

Bob Chauvin, owner of Rajun Cajun Used Cars in Reno, announced plans in October 2006 to build a $3.6 million dealership at 3449 S. Carson St., near Koontz Lane. The 32,000-square-foot, five-story building with rooftop parking was to also use solar energy panels and sell ZAP electric cars.

Building was supposed to start in spring 2007, but construction was delayed several times until the city revoked a permit in late May for a temporary sales office on the site.

The property was listed for sale on http://www.loopnet.com June 6.

“There are existing plans to build a five-story car dealership which would house up to 188 cars inside the building,” the description on the Web site says. “If the property were to be sold without the plans, a lesser price would be negotiated.”

Bruce Robertson, the broker for the sale, said he hasn’t gotten any written offers yet, but there has been a lot of interest in the property, which is in a long stretch of car dealerships on South Carson Street.

Chauvin was not available for comment at his business Monday.

Auto sales in Carson City were down 20 percent in March 2008 compared to March 2007, according to the most recent report by the Nevada Department of Taxation, and down 15 percent July 2007 through March 2008 compared to the same period a year before ” a drop in sales of more than $30 million.

Sales from car dealerships make up about a quarter of sales taxes collected in Carson City, said Finance Director Nick Providenti, and that was part of what the city had to deal with when putting together its budget for the next fiscal year.

Sales taxes make up about 40 percent of the city’s general fund.

Wayne Frediani, director of the Nevada Franchised Auto Dealers Association, said slow auto sales are also both a state and national trend, one that could run through the middle of 2009.

Auto sales have been the biggest source of sales taxes for the state behind gaming and entertainment, he said, but that might change during a time when manufacturers are switching focus away from trucks and SUVs.

“It’s all about supply and demand,” he said, “and the factories are going to be hard pressed to meet with small-car demand.”

– Contact reporter Dave Frank at dfrank@nevadaappeal.com or 881-1212.