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Former Saturn franchise in Fishers enters new orbit

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At least one of the former Saturn dealerships in the Indianapolis area will be renamed All Things Automotive, a newly formed Indianapolis-based used car franchisor headed by former Crawfordsville new-car dealer Larry Cummings.

Lockhart Automotive Group, which owns Cadillac dealerships and once operated three Saturn stores in the area, sent postcards to Saturn of Fishers customers over the past week, informing them of the name change.  Lockhart continues to own and operate the Fishers dealership and is now an All Things Automotive franchisee.

Late last year, Lockhart closed Saturn of Indianapolis, along Pike Plaza Road on the northwest side.  Its Saturn stores in Fishers and Greenwood remained open, selling used cars and a dwindling inventory of new of new Saturn models.

General Motors recently killed Saturn and Hummer brands after negotiations to sell them to other manufacturers collapsed.

All Things Automotive touts  an industry-first partnership with Raleigh, N.C.-based Carquest Auto Parts to provide parts to All Things Automotive dealers for their service bays. Carquest has 24 stores in the Indianapolis area.

“We will be continuing the Saturn customer-focused process in both sales and service,”  Lockhart said in the notice to customers, adding that the dealership would continue to perform Saturn warranty work.

Lockhart principal Lynn Kimmel said the enhanced vehicle service component All Things will offer is particularly appealing. Carquest brings attractive parts pricing and additional resources for technicians that will allow the service end of the business to become competitive with other shops. That should make the Fishers location a destination for service in and of itself, she said.

“This has so much potential for us.”

 The branding for the used car end of the business is another plus “because Indianapolis is such a developed market and new car franchises are pretty much taken up.”

A national used car franchsor has lucrative potential, Kimmel noted, adding “it obviously is very successful for Carmax,” the nation’s largest used car chain.

Cummings announced the formation of All Things Automotive last month at the National Automobile Dealers Association convention in Orlando, aiming particularly at former Saturn dealers scrambling for a new format.

Cummings, in courting dealers, said labor rates will be competitive with most independent and aftermarket service centers, freed of the cost and time of warranty repairs on new cars that cause some dealers to increase hourly rates.

Cummings envisions partnerships with other branded aftermarket providers as well.  He told dealers the concept is structured to squeeze the most out of the modern Saturn facilities.

Also developing an All Things Automotive franchise, out of an empty Ford store, is Mark Thomas, who operates new car dealerships in Western Pennsylvania and in Maryland.

The All Things Automotive franchise incorporates modern, uniform signage aimed at conveying a national brand name image and infusing credibility to what could otherwise appear as just another used car lot.

According to literature, the franchise “will appeal to retailers and dealers who truly understand the customers for life concept and who wish to command a growing market through a truly competitive new way of serving the motoring public.”

Cummings owned his Oldsmobile-GMC dealership for 22 years, selling it in 1998. He’s former manager of the state’s Intelenet Commission.

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