A $10 million Fort Wayne dealership fits with a General Motors Co. effort to generate online sales, a top executive said.
Alan Batey, senior vice president of Global Chevrolet, flew from Detroit on Tuesday to celebrate the grand opening of Kelley Chevrolet at Lima Road and Interstate 69. The nearly 60,000-square-foot vehicle center will give customers a modern showroom experience, he said.
Some dealers object to GMs online Shop-Click-Drive pilot program at a time when the automaker is pushing for millions of dollars of upgrades at brick-and-mortar dealerships. Critics say: Why spend the money if GM is going to tout Internet sales?
Batey doesnt see it that way.
The world is 24/7 today, he said Tuesday. We dont view this online program as bypassing the dealers but working in conjunction with them. We expect a low percentage of our sales to come from this, but its important to make it available.
Jim Kelley, vice president of operations at the dealership, agrees.
For many of our customers, the Internet is the first place they turn when looking for a car. You want to have a good online presence and a good showroom presence. You need them both.
Also needed is a good location, and Batey said he believes Kelley has that.
Getting a site right next to Costco obviously will result in a lot of traffic, Batey said. Its a wonderful opportunity.
But it didnt come without a bit of a fight. Rival dealer DeHaven Chevrolet tried to stop GMs plan to endorse Kelley Chevrolets new location.
Kelley previously operated on East State Boulevard. Under a 2001 state law, dealerships were generally prohibited from moving to within 6 miles of another existing dealership of the same brand. But in a legislative session last year, state lawmakers led by Rep. Phil GiaQuinta, D-Fort Wayne, changed the law, which shrank the cushion from 6 miles to 4.
The East State Boulevard site still serves as a body shop and heavy-duty and commercial vehicle sales and service center. Jim Kelley said the family also will open an auto parts store at the location next month.
President Tom Kelley is happy with his new home. Among the features at the dealership is an interactive customer service area. Using an iPad as a remote control, sales associates can take prospective buyers through a vehicles tech features by demonstrations on a flat-screen TV.
Im 61, so I told my kids that this is really for them, Tom Kelley said. This dealership is for the next generation.