After 45 years in its Greer facility, D&D Ford decided to construct a new facility 3 miles down the road on Wade Hampton Boulevard. (Photo/firnFOTO)
By Liz Segrist
Published Aug. 8, 2012
D&D Ford of Greer planned its expansion a decade ago.
Then the recession hit. Auto sales plummeted. Automakers faced bankruptcy. Car brands disappeared. Dealerships closed.
D&D stuck to its $7 million plan, however, and perhaps surprisingly, other dealerships in the market are following suit.
“It’s just ironic as we’re coming out of a recession that the economy seemed stable enough for us to carry out our plans,” said Skip Davenport, president and general manager of D&D Ford, which is building a new facility on Wade Hampton Boulevard in Greer.
“It is very important to have updated, renovated facilities to attract customers,” he said. “It’s not enough to have a new facility. You have to have it laid out efficiently to better care for your customers.”
And following a few years of sluggish sales, customers are reappearing.
Passenger-vehicle sales are up 14.8% nationwide through June, compared to the first half of 2011, according to Motor Intelligence, which is powered by Autodata Corp., a collector of automotive statistical data nationwide.
This increase in sales and investment comes only a few years after many automakers were closing down dealerships. Chrysler closed 11 South Carolina dealerships in 2009, not including those in the Upstate, as part of its plan to close 789 dealerships nationwide. The last Saturn dealership in the Upstate closed in 2009. Like Saturn, the Pontiac brand was claimed by the recession.
But now, signs declaring discounts and lots filled with gleaming cars are accompanied by expansions and renovations — complete with updated showrooms and modernized, open customer waiting rooms.
Along Greenville’s Motor Mile on Laurens Road, Sitton Buick GMC, Fairway Subaru and Big O Dodge Chrysler Jeep are renovating space. Along Congaree Road, Dick Smith Mitsubishi is upfitting its showroom. In Spartanburg, Dave Edwards Toyota recently completed a renovation. And not far from D&D Ford on Wade Hampton Boulevard, Benson Chrysler Dodge Jeep on Wade Hampton Boulevard is getting a new look.
Unlike D&D Ford, Fairway Subaru made a quick decision to expand. Within four months, the company committed to renovated, designed plans and began construction.
“It’s pretty competitive to get customers,” Fairway Subaru Sales Manager John McHann said. “Coming out of the recession, it seemed like a good time to renovate. We wanted it to be more convenient for our customers with expanded departments and better waiting rooms with new furniture.”
Fairway, at 2209 Laurens Road, is finishing up expansions of its parts department and service department, as well as renovations of its entire building, McHann said.
Dave Edwards Toyota of Spartanburg recently remodeled and updated its showroom at 2450 Reidville Road.
Cynthia Masters of Panageries Inc., a residential and commercial interior design firm, designed the room to focus on the dealership’s brand and the owner’s interests, reflected in Edwards’ photos from travels in Africa. Panageries wanted the showroom to exude openness and customer comfort.
The customer lounge was renovated to include a cafe and private work areas with additional seating. There is also a separate area for children, as well as a theater for entertaining customers.
Yeargin Potter Shackelford Construction of Greenville is currently working on renovations for Dick Smith Mitsubishi and Fairway Subaru.
Marsh/Bell Construction was awarded contracts in 2011 for the Benson Chrysler Dodge Jeep renovation project and the Big O Dodge renovation project.
Renovations to the Benson Chrysler Dodge Jeep dealership on Wade Hampton Boulevard in Greer included new masonry retaining walls; a complete renovation of the offices and showroom; the addition of a new entry and Chrysler arch in front; and new signage.
The Big O Dodge Chrysler Jeep dealership on Laurens Road in Greenville included the renovation of a 6,400-square-foot parts building constructed of block and steel and a 32,000-square-foot roof.
The office and showroom received a complete renovation with a new entry, a Chrysler arch in the front and new signage. The new showroom will have the capability of accommodating up to 11 vehicles. New lighting and new asphalt for a car lot is also included.
As D&D Ford continues to expand, Davenport said he is confident in the manufacturer to continue producing enough marketable products to support a strong sales force and continued growth.
Davenport said with low construction costs, comparable to those seen in 1993, and land purchased before the recession, 2011 seemed like the right time to begin building.
The dealership will leave its 45-year-old facility at 1000 W. Wade Hampton Blvd. in Greer and move into a new one, currently under construction, 3 miles down the road on Highway 29. The new quick lane, tire and auto center facility opened on July 2. The full facility opening is expected sometime in October.
The company follows the growth on Highway 29 as it prepares to move to its new 32,642-square-foot facility on 6.18 acres at 13645 E. Wade Hampton Blvd.
The new dealership and service facility will offer an advanced body shop and service area; customer lounge; cafe with complimentary snacks; and a children’s play area. The expanded service area will be equipped for work on medium-duty trucks, including the F-650 and F-750 models.
Site Design of Greenville is the civil engineering firm handling the project. Marsh Bell Construction Co. Inc. is the contractor and Westall Architects is the project architect. It was designed with a whole-building approach to sustainability.
Like D&D, Century BMW opted for a new facility, rather than an upfit. The dealership relocated in 2010 further south on Laurens Road. The old Century BMW dealership remains vacant.
The former D&D site, and all of the remaining fixtures, equipment and buildings, will be auctioned off in October. Davenport hopes to have someone ready to develop on the Greer property at that point.