Auto dealers turn bullish, snag sites

Back to TopCommentsE-mailPrintBookmark and Share

Local car dealers are investing in projects ranging from new facilities to showroom renovations as the economy improves and the auto industry rebounds from a crippling slump in sales.

The dealership construction boom includes projects in Carmel, Noblesville, Plainfield, Brownsburg and Greenwood. It comes as auto buyers snap up new cars and trucks at a pace not seen since before the recession, with no slowdown expected.

lee-terry-mug Lee

Noblesville city officials are slated to consider a zoning change later this month to allow for a 53-acre development from Terry Lee, who operates a Honda dealership in Avon. The project would be anchored by a Hyundai franchise along State Road 37, not far from the new location of Honda of Fishers, formerly Honda West, which moved July 1 from its longtime 38th Street site on the west side in Indianapolis.

On East 96th Street, Tom Wood is expanding its Subaru and Volkswagen operations, and Butler Automotive Group plans to build a larger Hyundai dealership to replace the current one adjacent to Butler Toyota.

Ray Skillman Ford in Greenwood is building a 17,300-square-foot dealership for its used car sales along U.S. 31. Andy Mohr Ford in Plainfield is building a 13,300-square-foot addition to expand its service department, and Bill Estes Ford in Brownsburg is remodeling its 9,000-square-foot showroom and service shop.

The activity is occurring along the busy thoroughfares already dotted with car lots, and continues a trend among dealers to follow the shifts in population.

Analysts anticipated U.S. auto sales rising 6 percent to 8 percent in June compared with the same month last year.

car-dealers-map.gifLow interest rates, wider credit availability and hot new vehicle models are a few of the factors driving the turnaround, said Marty Murphy, executive vice president of the Automobile Dealers Association of Indiana.

“All of this is because the economy is better, and a lot of it has to do with the availability of money to borrow,” he said. “Plus, we have some really good cars out there.”

Ford Motor Co. and Nissan Motor Co. led all major automakers, with a 13-percent June sales increase, followed by Honda Motor Co. and Toyota Motor Corp. at 10 percent. Chrysler Group LLC posted an 8-percent gain, followed by General Motors Co. at 6.5 percent.

Terry Lee Crossing

Lee’s project, dubbed Terry Lee Crossing, would be built on undeveloped land at the southeast corner of State Road 37 and 32 in Noblesville. Plans call for a 38,000-square-foot Hyundai dealership to be built on 8.4 acres, with Lee marketing eight remaining lots to prospective developers.

The Noblesville Plan Commission is set to hear Lee’s request for a zoning change at its July 15 meeting.

“It’s definitely a very visible spot, and it’s needed to be developed for quite some time,” Lee said. “We’re going in already as an anchor tenant, so that made it a lot more feasible for me to do.”

Hamilton County property records indicate Lee bought the property in December 2011 from an entity called Dearborn Street Holding LLC for $995,000, though he would not confirm the price.

Lee’s investment likely helped him secure the Hyundai franchise last September from a field of several competitors.

car-dealers-factbox.gifPending necessary approvals, he hopes to finish the dealership by August 2014.

“This should be a really good move for them,” Lee said. “Hyundai did not have any representation up there, so they were excited about getting there.”

The high-profile corner largely has remained undeveloped because of poor soil quality, said Christy Langley, Noblesville’s planning director.

One of Lee’s zoning requests would change the property’s designation from “flood hazard” to “planned business” by filling part of a creek and drainage ditch that snakes through it.

As long as Lee has the necessary environmental permits, Langley doesn’t see any problems preventing the development.

“The 37 corridor is one of our main commercial corridors, and we want to make sure we keep it vital,” she said. “We’re happy to see something go there that generates traffic for its neighbors.”

Honda of Fishers

To the south, Honda of Fishers built a 49,000-square-foot dealership along Britton Park Road fronting S.R. 37 that features a service facility double the size of the old one on 38th Street.

The prospect of selling more cars in prosperous Hamilton County prompted the move, said Tom Crawley, the dealership’s general sales manager.

“Honda has requirements for their dealership and we need to meet those,” he said. “The best decision we could make was to find more property.”

The old Honda West facility at 4701 W. 38th St. is listed by the local office of Lee & Associates for $1.4 million. The 20,396-square-foot building sits on nearly four acres and was constructed in 1978.

Tom Wood

The Tom Wood automotive group, which sells 14 car brands, is undertaking simultaneous projects to expand its Subaru and Volkswagen dealerships.

Tom Wood plans to demolish part of the existing Subaru store at 3230 E. 96th St. and triple its size to 43,000 square feet. In the meantime, it plans to double the size of its Volkswagen dealership to 67,000 square feet by moving from the current location at 4610 E. 96th St. to the former Palmer Dodge building across the street.

The auto group has torn down much of the building and will add onto it with new construction that will feature a 15-car, multi-level showroom, said Roger Keller, Tom Wood’s chief operating officer.

It will also be one of the few Volkswagen dealerships in the country with a service express center for quick oil changes, tire rotations, and wiper blade and exterior light bulb installations, he said.

The new Volkswagen facility should be open by early October.

“The automobile business is extremely competitive, but from Volkswagen’s standpoint, the future is bright, and we’ve just outgrown our facility,” Keller said. “We need the capacity to truly service our market.”

Once it’s open, Tom Wood plans to move its Audi dealership that it shares with Porsche to the old Volkswagen location, so each will be stand-alone shops.

The Subaru expansion should be finished in the latter half of 2014, Keller said.

Both the Subaru and Volkswagen facilities will feature several environmentally friendly components, and Tom Wood is shooting for LEED certification for its Subaru building.

Because both projects are not finished, Keller declined to provide an estimate on how much Tom Wood might be spending on them.

Butler Hyundai

In Carmel, an affiliate of Butler Automotive Group bought more than 19 acres at the northwest corner of East 96th Street and Randall Drive in late December and is seeking permission to build a structure that would house Butler Hyundai.

The two-story, 37,500-square-foot dealership would be built on the south half of the property.

Butler anticipates starting construction within the next year. Butler Hyundai would move from its location adjacent to Butler Toyota, which is south of 96th Street and closer to Keystone Avenue.•


  • Hyundai
    I thought the article said he won the right to build a Hyundai dealership
  • You can't compete with yourself
    Giving Terry Lee another Honda dealership in the same MMA (metropolitan marketing area) is bad business. I spent 40 years in the industry with many as a dealer after being an exec for a major Japanese nameplate and I've learned that this only creates bad will by the other same make dealers and rarely increases sales penetration which is the only reason a manufacturer adds a dealer in a market. There are many solid non-Honda dealers clamoring for a Honda point that would create add'l competition in the market which would boost Honda's sales numbers and penetration.
    • Now need a city plan for Lafayette Square
      Since all of the car dealerships are packing up and moving North and West. When will the city develop a plan to flatten the area and make it the new area of the city to move? Close to Hwy, close to Downtown. Would be perfect for Bus Rapid Transit. I know this isn't the point of the article, but clearly the dealerships are moving because of the quality and income of the area. Will it stay this way forever?

    Post a comment to this story

    We reserve the right to remove any post that we feel is obscene, profane, vulgar, racist, sexually explicit, abusive, or hateful.
    You are legally responsible for what you post and your anonymity is not guaranteed.
    Posts that insult, defame, threaten, harass or abuse other readers or people mentioned in IBJ editorial content are also subject to removal. Please respect the privacy of individuals and refrain from posting personal information.
    No solicitations, spamming or advertisements are allowed. Readers may post links to other informational websites that are relevant to the topic at hand, but please do not link to objectionable material.
    We may remove messages that are unrelated to the topic, encourage illegal activity, use all capital letters or are unreadable.

    Messages that are flagged by readers as objectionable will be reviewed and may or may not be removed. Please do not flag a post simply because you disagree with it.

    Sponsored by

    facebook - twitter on Facebook & Twitter

    Follow on TwitterFollow IBJ on Facebook:
    Follow on TwitterFollow IBJ's Tweets on these topics:
    Subscribe to IBJ
    1. why oh why does this state continue to elect these people....do you wonder how much was graft out of the 3.8 billion?

    2. i too think this is a great idea. I think the vision and need is there as well. But also agree with Wendy that there may be better location in our city to fulfill this vision and help grow the sports of hockey and figure skating in Indy. Also to help further develop other parts of the city that seem often forgotten. Any of the other 6 townships out side of the three northernmost could benefit greatly from a facility and a vision like this. For a vision that sounds philanthropic, the location is appears more about the money. Would really like to see it elsewhere, but still wish the development the best of luck, as we can always use more ice in the city. As for the Ice growth when they return, if schedules can be coordinated with the Fuel, what could be better than to have high level hockey available to go see every weekend of the season? Good luck with the development and the return of the Ice.

    3. How many parking spaces do they have at Ironworks? Will residents have reserved spaces or will they have to troll for a space among the people that are there at Ruth Chris & Sangiovese?

    4. You do not get speeding ticket first time you speed and this is not first time Mr.Page has speed. One act should not define a man and this one act won't. He got off with a slap on the wrist. I agree with judge no person was injured by his actions. The state was robbed of money by paying too much rent for a building and that money could have been used for social services. The Page family maybe "generous" with their money but for most part all of it is dirty money that he obtained for sources that are not on the upright. Page is the kind of lawyer that gives lawyers a bad name. He paid off this judge like he has many other tine and walked away. Does he still have his license. I believe so. Hire him to get you confiscated drug money back. He will. It will cost you.

    5. I remain amazed at the level of expertise of the average Internet Television Executive. Obviously they have all the answers and know the business inside and out.