Dealer Ops

Curry Auto Center Expands its Lineup

As the fourth-generation scion of a long line of car dealers, Cary Curry grew up in the General Motors fold, but there was just one crucial logo missing from the front of his store—until July 1st.

That’s when Curry completed a deal to buy out the local Chevrolet franchise in Bloomington, Ind., adding it’s inventory  to the Buick, Cadillac, Pontiac and GMC trucks already lined up and ready for sale at the Curry Auto Center.

“When I was approached to consider purchasing the Chevrolet franchise to add to my existing GM lineup,” said Curry, “I was excited about the opportunity because it was just that, an opportunity. By adding Chevrolet, our dealership became a multi-line GM store – all the GM brands at one location – which I think is the best situation for Bloomington, Indiana.”

Curry’s deal in Bloomington reflects a trend that brokers and dealers say has been gaining steam around the country. With the retail automotive market under stress from falling sales, well-established dealers like Curry are finding that the doors are open to consolidating franchises. A boost in service operations combined with a streamlined administration offers immediate advantages, and Curry Auto Center will be better positioned than ever after sales pick up again.

General Motors, which has been encouraging brand consolidation around the country, liked the Curry deal from the start. “GM certainly was behind our acquisition,” noted Curry. “They saw an opportunity for better market penetration with the line in our hands.”

In one respect, the deal came along at an opportune moment. Curry was already planning to remodel the retail center. With the buyout, he was able to easily tweak the remodeling to fit GM’s requirements for a multi-line operation, so that saved some money.

The deal also swiftly helped beef up business, and not just because he’s added new market favorites like the HHR and Malibu to the mix. “It helped our business almost immediately,” said Curry. “There are Chevrolet owners in this town that we’re now marketing to for service, and of course we do the warranty work.” And Curry isn’t shy about boasting of his service department, a top-notch outfit he believes is well positioned to grow the company’s market share.

“Our dealership is very service-focused,” added Curry. “It's been great to meet Chevrolet owners and have the opportunity to now service their vehicles. Of course, added customers are a plus for every employee. Our staff has been enthusiastic.”

There are three big employers in Bloomington: Indiana University, Cook Medical and Bloomington Hospital. They are all economic fixtures that help stabilize the regional economy. But like most other such cities, the market is tangibly soft. Fuel prices are high, stock prices are low and many buyers are waiting it out on the sidelines.

For many consumers, said Curry, the desire to “act now” has turned into a waiting game. He plans to be ready for them when they stop waiting and start buying. A member of the Curry family has been doing that for 93 years now. W.S. Curry – Cary Curry’s great grandfather – sold his first car in Bloomington. 2009 was already shaping up as one of the most challenging in history when this deal came along. Curry had recently purchased land south of the showroom for a new collision center, and that deal had left him with more room for growth.

“Interestingly enough, the timing was tough,” said Curry, who owns the dealership with Craig A. Richards, the vice president and general manager of the corporation. “That’s not necessarily because of the soft economy, but because we had just broken ground on a new, 13,000-square-foot collision center. Two major expenses at the same time were somewhat overwhelming, but then again, I had to look at the opportunity Chevrolet would give our dealership and my employees.

“I suppose the only drawback is the initial financial commitment: the franchise, the existing new vehicle inventories, the parts inventories and a commitment to GM to update one’s facility to meet the new image for the GM multi-line store,” he added. “Our current facility was already on the drawing board for renovation with empty space from moving our existing body shop into a new collision center, so with or without Chevrolet, we were re-evaluating our space to operate more efficiently."

Even at a time when the president of the United States is warning of a possible severe recession, Curry is confident that he’ll look back and be glad he completed the buyout. “Market conditions didn't really come into play,” he said. “We have weathered economic storms before and we operate wisely.

“My focus was on the future, the positive impact that added sales and service would have on my employees and a strong belief that the Chevrolet franchise would be an excellent line now and in years to come.” This was one bet, though, that Curry felt was stacked in his favor. Bottom line: He believes GM makes the kind of vehicles the American consumer wants to buy.

“If the economy were stronger, I think we’d see a more immediate payoff,” he added. “I still believe down the road the decision to acquire Chevrolet will be seen as the right decision. I think it’s a strong franchise. They’re looking at hybrids. There’s the new Malibu hybrid, the Volt, an electric car. They’re going to have products that people want, and we’ll be there when things turn.”

Vol 5, Issue 11

About the author
John Carroll

John Carroll

Contributing Author

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