Waterloo Auto Mall
Thread to discuss a proposed mega consolidated auto dealership (Schlueter Chevrolet, Waterloo Hyundai & Fairview Acura) at King Street and Highway 85.
Business as usual
Local GM dealers survive car maker’s restructuring to sell another day
By Melinda Dalton | WATERLOO CHRONICLE | Wednesday, May 27, 2009
WATERLOO - Two local auto dealers spared from the GM chopping block last week say they can now move their businesses ahead with confidence.
Schlueter Chevrolet Hummer and Forbes Pontiac Buick Cadillac GMC found out last Wednesday that GM had opted to keep their dealerships open while cutting 245 of its 709 locations.
“We are truly sorry about all the people who lost their jobs,” said Russ Forbes Jr. of Forbes Motors Inc.. “Last Wednesday, a lot of my personal friends lost their jobs across the country and that’s just not something anybody ever wants to see.
“In the same respect, it now gives some clarity as to what’s going to go on going forward and that’s comforting. We’re happy to be here.”
While GM wouldn’t confirm which specific dealerships would close, one dealership in Guelph and one Cambridge were reportedly told their agreement wouldn’t be renewed in 2010.
Both Waterloo dealerships said they’ll help absorb some of the stock from the closing businesses, as requested by GM.
Amy Schlueter of Schlueter Automotive Group said they’re trying to get a message out to their customers that it’s “business as usual,” at the dealership.
“Our customers haven’t been concerned at all,” she said, adding the dealership sent out a press release and distributed it among many of the customers. “We just wanted everyone to have the same information.”
She said they haven’t seen a dramatic dip in business despite the changes going on in the company. Hummer, one of the brands that has been officially cut by GM, is actually selling swiftly.
“Now, everybody wants one,” said Dennis Schlueter, president of Schlueter Chevrolet Hummer. “We can’t get enough . . . the plant’s shut down, so what we have is what we have. ”
Despite the current economic situation and the challenges facing the automotive industry, the Schlueters are moving forward with a significant redevelopment. They’re planning to build an auto mall on 11 acres of land they purchased right across from the new Wal-Mart in north Waterloo. They want to move all the Schlueter dealerships, including their Waterloo Hyundai and Kitchener Acura businesses, to one site and create a “one-stop shopping experience” for car seekers.
“People still need to drive cars,” said Dennis. “They’re always going to need to drive cars. We’re now looking to the future.
“We certainly wouldn’t want to put up anything that we’d lose in a year, so now we’re pretty confident that General Motors is going to be successful, especially the Chevrolet brand.”
The plan will maintain three distinct dealerships, but they’ll be connected inside so customers can move through seamlessly even in winter. “They can come to one place and see all kinds of brands and options so it saves them time and stress, so we see it as a true benefit for all of our customers,” Amy said.
They’ve also trying to incorporate green elements into the ambitious project. They’re planning windmills capable of generating up to 70 per cent of the dealerships’ power needs. They’re recycling water from the man-made pond on the property. They’re even looking at installing solar panels on top of the buildings’ flat roofs.
Dennis said they’re still waiting on word from GM about the specifics of how big the new dealership should be, but if all goes as planned they hope to start work next spring. Even with the challenges facing the industry and the economy, Dennis said he’s confident now is the time to move ahead.
“I say in jest that when I’m sitting in my rocking chair in 20 years I say, that was a really good decision,” he said.
“You almost have to be a head of the curve or the land becomes too expensive to put a car dealership on. You need to move further out than maybe you would say is ideal at the moment, but in a couple years, it all catches up.”
Amy said the only automotive factories in North America that do not have planned shutdowns are producing Chevrolet vehicles — the Equinox, built in Ingersoll, and the Camaro, assembled in Oshawa.
“It sends a message that they want to build Chevrolets, even through this tough time,” she said.
For now, both Forbes and Schlueter agree that the clarity that came with GM’s decision allows them to move forward with confidence. And, both said, there’s no better time than the present to buy a new car.
“We sold a lot of cars last week,” Forbes said. “The programs are so phenomenal. If anybody was on the fence, now is definitely the time.”
It might make the problem worse, but I'd be all for getting any/all auto lots off of the prime spots in the core(s) and have them all consolidated. Guelph Auto Mall style. Could be good. Or bad.