Local car dealerships spiffy up showrooms

Posted: April 17, 2013

The Winchester Star

A covered drop-off bay is one of the features of the renovated Safford of Winchester auto dealership on Berryville Pike. (Photo by Scott Mason/The Winchester Star)
Pictured are some of the items for sale at Beyer Volkswagen. (Photo by Jeff Taylor/The Winchester Star)
Moussa Hassane is a sales and leasing consultant at the new Beyer Volkswagen of Winchester on Valley Pike. Beyer is one of the area dealerships that has remodeled. (Photo by Jeff Taylor/The Winchester Star)
Safford of Winchester has built a new showroom as part of its renovations. General manager Jon Filip said the Chrysler, Dodge, Jeep and Ram dealership spent about $3 million to repave its lot, add parking spaces and replace its old showroom. (Photo by Scott Mason/The Winchester Star)

WINCHESTER — Several local car dealerships have a new look after spending millions of dollars on improved facilities.

Safford of Winchester, Jim Stutzman Chevrolet Cadillac, Kern Toyota and Beyer Volkswagen have all completed upgrades to their showrooms in recent months.

Jon Filip, general manager of Safford at 1659 Berryville Pike in Frederick County, said the Chrysler, Dodge, Jeep and Ram dealership spent about $3 million to repave its lot, add parking spaces and replace its old showroom.

“Cars are getting more expensive every day, and if you drive by my store and it looks like a total dump, you might question buying from me,” Filip said last week. “Your facility does say a lot, your curb appeal is no different than anything. You have to upgrade and modernize.”

Safford also connected its new- and used-car buildings, with a covered waiting area in between for customers. The dealership also has an additional two or three acres available for future expansion.

“Hopefully we don’t have to [renovate] for another 30 years,” Filip said. “We want customers to feel we’re in it for the long haul, which we are.”

Following several slow years during the recession, sales of new vehicles are projected to reach 15 million nationwide this year, according to car shopping website Edmunds.com.

Sales dipped to 10.4 million in 2009 but increased to 14.4 million in 2012, the website states.

Henry “Took” Kern, owner of Kern Toyota at 400 Weems Lane in the city, said his business has seen a resurgence in sales over the past 18 months.

“We’re starting to see a rebound, and that’s part of the reason we decided to go ahead and complete renovations,” Kern said.

Kern Toyota recently finished about $1.5 million in renovations to the front end of its showroom, or “portal,” which hadn’t been changed much in more than 20 years.

The dealership also expanded its service area and has new waiting and sales areas, Kern said.

“If you have a business like this for so long, you need to [renovate],” he said.

Beyer Volkswagen general manager Jordy Coho is also seeing an uptick in sales at his dealership at 4015 Valley Pike, south of the city. The increase helped spur the construction of an approximately 9,000-square-foot VW showroom adjacent to Don Beyer Volvo.

“We’ve had a lot of good reception, people really like the look of it, and it’s great for the Volkswagen brand,” Coho said. “Business has been growing, so we had the need to do it.”

The dealership, which has been selling Volvos for about six years and Volkswagens for almost two, also added a service and parts counter and a customer waiting area.

Total cost for the renovations was just over $1 million, Coho said.

While language in the state code prevents automobile manufacturers from requiring Virginia dealerships to upgrade facilities, they do encourage improvements, according to local Chevrolet Cadillac dealer Jim Stutzman.

“All the manufacturers are kind of making the suggestion that the dealers do that, and not only do they want you to do upgrades and a facelift, they want them all to look the same,” Stutzman said.

“If you don’t play along with what [the manufacturers] encourage you to do or they want you to do, then it may become difficult to get products. There may be certain new vehicles that just aren’t available for you to order quite in the numbers you want.”

He said his dealership, located at 2700 Valley Ave. in the city, was due for the work anyway.

“All the high-touch customer areas we completely renovated,” he said. “It’s something that we normally do every 10 or 12 years.”

Stutzman renovated the front of the dealership, along with the showroom, the customer waiting area and the service area.

Construction began last August, and most of the major work is complete, Stutzman said. The project’s price tag was just over $1 million.

“I’m really pleased with what we did and the way it turned out,” he said. “And the comments we’re getting from our customers and people in the community, it’s phenomenal.”

Dealership representatives all said they used local workers and local contractors for most of their renovations.

— Contact Matt Armstrong at marmstrong@winchesterstar.com