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Hendrick expands in Concord with auto mall

By Rachel Adams-Heard
radamsheard@charlotteobserver.com
  • http://media.charlotteobserver.com/smedia/2014/07/02/19/48/W9T6F.Em.138.jpeg|207
    David T. Foster III - dtfoster@charlotteobserver.com
    The Hendrick Fiat of Concord dealership is within of view of Bruton Smith Boulevard in Concord.
  • http://media.charlotteobserver.com/smedia/2014/07/02/19/48/133JNx.Em.138.jpeg|316
    David T. Foster III - dtfoster@charlotteobserver.com
    Auto dealer Rick Hendrick talks to salesperson Nicole Oliphant on Wednesday at the Volkswagen showroom while touring the new Hendrick Auto Mall in Concord.

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Rick Hendrick has big plans for his newest $50 million auto mall, six dealerships situated between Charlotte Motor Speedway and Concord Mills mall.

Hendrick Auto Mall Concord officially opened this week. Combined with the $50 million-plus spent on its Northlake luxury auto mall, Charlotte-based Hendrick Automotive Group has invested more than $100 million in new dealerships north of Charlotte. Hendrick, an auto dealer and NASCAR team owner, said he hopes some of the 20 million people who visit Concord Mills stop by to check out the 3,000 vehicles the company plans to have on site.

“If you’re in a really heavy traffic pattern, you don’t have to advertise,” said Hendrick of the location.

The new mall comes as auto sales are rebounding to levels not seen since before the recession, with sales expected to exceed the 2009 low by 6 million, according to Jeremy Acevedo, an analyst for auto information site Edmunds.com.

The 75-acre auto mall has six dealerships, three new and three relocated. They include Fiat, KIA, Volkswagen, Chrysler Dodge Jeep RAM and the existing Honda and Toyota stores, which moved seven miles to Bruton Smith Boulevard from Concord Parkway in 2005. Relocating the Honda and Toyota dealerships proved profitable, said Hendrick, increasing sales by 250 percent.

And he’s expecting the new dealerships to experience the same success. While Fiat, VW and KIA are new to the area, Chrysler Dodge Jeep RAM was previously seven miles away on Concord Parkway. Hendrick said he expects the new location, which is more visible from the highway, to more than double sales.

Hendrick said the idea of selling 10 manufacturer nameplates in one place is not that different from that of Concord Mills, a nearly 1.4 million-square-foot mall with more than 200 stores.

“It’s a lot of things to buy in one spot, and it’s right on the highway,” said Hendrick.

The company hopes to sell 1,200 cars a month across the new dealerships. This year, Hendrick Automotive expects to see its companywide sales up 20 percent from last year, bringing the total number of car sales to 200,000 by the end of the year.

The auto industry in general is having a good year, Acevedo said. He added that the industry expects to see 16.4 million sales this year.

Sport utility vehicles and trucks are outselling cars, a trend evident in the last few months, said Acevedo. “It’s a pretty strong indicator of consumer confidence.” Previously, consumers favored smaller, more affordable compact vehicles.

So far this year, Acevedo said the industry has seen a 4.2 percent increase in year-over-year sales, bringing the number of cars sold since January to 8.2 million vehicles. And the advent of leasing vehicles has “taken off,” said Acevedo, adding that more than a quarter of cars are leased.

The new auto mall in Concord has leasing options at all six dealerships. At Honda of Concord, leases make up 20 percent of all new car sales.

“Leasing often reduces the upfront financial commitment of buying a car,” said Acevedo.

Another service Hendrick wants to provide is used car purchase, similar to companies like CarMax.

“We want to be able to purchase customers’ cars off the streets,” said Hendrick. The idea would be for customers to take their cars to the auto mall and get an appraisal that would work at any of the dealerships on site.

Hendrick isn’t just recruiting customers. By the end of the year, the company hopes to hire 100 more employees, adding to the 200 new employees brought to the Concord auto mall this year, both in sales and service.

The Charlotte area remains an especially strong market, Hendrick said.

“Charlotte’s market has grown like crazy,” said Hendrick. “And as you grow in population, you need to service that.”

Adams-Heard: 704-358-5197
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