NWI car dealerships continue to be bright spot in economy

By Karen Caffarini Post-Tribune correspondent October 6, 2012
Updated: October 10, 2012 2:53PM
Source: Post-Tribune (http://posttrib.suntimes.com)

HIGHLAND-SCHERERVILLE-MERRILLVILLE | Two new companies and one expansion are promising to make the region’s two busiest car dealership corridors — U.S. 30 and U.S. 41 — even busier.

Team Toyota will begin moving its Highland dealership to a new, larger $8 million facility at 400 Indianapolis Blvd. (U.S. 41) in Schererville this week with an official opening date set for Oct. 15, general manager Jason Akers said.

Its current location, at 9601 Indianapolis Blvd., is set to become a Volkswagen dealership once extensive remodeling of the building is completed, said Volkswagen of Orland Park, Ill., president Joe Hoobyer.

And in the neighboring community of Merrillville, Muller Acura opened the doors to its new $5 million Gen3 Acura Concept dealership on Aug. 1.

David Lasser, managing broker at Commercial In-Sites LLC in Merrillville, said auto dealerships have been the shining light of new construction in Northwest Indiana, and he predicted there will be others to come.

“The trend has been new state-of-the-art, modern dealerships that auto companies try to congregate with the competition in certain locations with high traffic,” Lasser said. “Our two highest traffic areas are U.S. 30 and U.S. 41.”

Lasser said auto companies spend a great deal of time and money deciding the perfect location, square footage for the dealership and how many cars will be needed there. Sometimes, he said, it’s less expensive to build than to transform a former dealership building into that concept.

As for the folks at Team Toyota, Akers said everyone is pretty excited about the upcoming move.

“We’ll be in a state-of-the-art building that’s 38,000 square feet total with 26 service bays,” Akers said of the new Team Toyota facility.

He said there are only nine service bays at the current location, which Team Toyota has occupied for 16 years.

Akers said there is a car wash on the premises. Every vehicle in for service will get a free car wash and 20 complimentary car washes will be included with every new car purchased there, he said.

Hoobyer said he doesn’t know yet when he’ll be able to open a Volkswagen dealership at the Team Toyota site.

“We’re still working on the final plans and we still need to go through the Town Council and state process, and through Volkswagen for design approval,” Hoobyer said.

“There are still many variables,” he said, noting he plans to have extensive remodeling done on the current building to make it a 25,000-square-foot concept dealership.

Hoobyer previously said his new dealership would have about $1.5 million in improvements made and would generate at least 30 jobs.

Glenn Muller, general manager of Muller Acura at 3301 W. Lincoln Highway (U.S. 30), said business has been going very well so far at the new concept dealership located just west of Schepel Buick GMC.

The dealership has 25 employees and is hiring additional ones, Muller aid.

He said the dealership has the latest, most advanced diagnostic equipment on the market in the service area, adding it will service any vehicle make, not just Acuras.

The building has the feel of a luxury hotel, with customer lounges, hotel-like lobby seating, skylights, a cafe and theater seating where customers can watch a video explaining the features of various Acuras.

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