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Toyota dealership survives effects of tsunami, construction
Despite a tsunami in 2011 that dramatically reduced the supply of new vehicles, and the disruption created by ongoing construction in 2012, Alexander Toyota Scion has managed to maintain positive sales.
“Our scenario has been a little unique,” said Mark Howard, general manager of Alexander Toyota Scion.
“In 2011, we went through most of the year with 25 or 30 new cars on the lot. Right now I have 150. You can see what a huge difference it was.”
There were fewer new models available in 2011 because the suppliers for Toyota in Japan had been greatly impacted by the Tohoku earthquake and tsunami on March 11.
Despite the lack of new vehicles to sell, Howard's team was able to offset the loss with the sale of used cars, he said.
Then in 2012, construction began on a new building at the dealership, located at 889 E. 32nd St.
“We were building our store the whole time,” Howard said. “The whole thing was torn up and torn apart. It was difficult for us because we really didn't have a lot to sell off of. We went through that for a year but did very well.”
The new building is now open to the public. The staff celebrated the completion of the state-of-the-art, 45,000-square-foot facility with an official grand opening celebration on Jan. 17.
“This will be the first year where we don't have a tsunami going on and we don't have our building ripped apart, so we are super excited for this year,” Howard said, adding that the new building is a vast improvement over the previous structure.
The old building was “tiny. You could literally put one car in the showroom floor, and it was tight. Now we can put six in here and not even notice it. If you really want to squeeze them in, we can put eight in here.”
The new Toyota showroom includes two customer lounges with large couches, large-screen HDTVs and Wi-Fi. The dealership even boasts a separate showroom for Scion.
“This is a great environment, and now we find instead of people coming in and dropping their car off and disappearing, they hang out here, which is cool,” Howard said.
The new building also provides more space for the technicians. The service department was expanded from 16 bays to 30.
“It was a huge change in the amount of service bays we have,” Howard said, noting a separate area has been set up for those who just need general maintenance.
“We made a separate express maintenance lane ... so if somebody wants to get their oil changed or their tires rotated, they can get it done quick.”
The express lane is equipped with “speed lifts” to expedite the process. In addition, a team under the direction of a master-trained technician works together on each vehicle that comes in.
“It allows them to not only do an oil change, but to do a thorough inspection” of each vehicle, Howard said.
“It gives them a speed of maintenance, but you don't get any less inspection by doing that. I doubt there are many places that have an oil change being checked by a master technician.”
While it cost several million dollars to construct the new dealership, the current economy is stable enough to accommodate the investment, Howard said confidently.
“You have all the people from out of town this time of year that come in — then you have the military, and agriculture is huge. Yuma is really cool because the way it lays in, it really makes for a good solid year all year-round. I have always been amazed at Yuma's economy.”
A slow and steady growth in sales has even allowed Alexander Toyota Scion to hire new employees. The company has already added 15 new employees to work in the expanded dealership and will continue to hire more depending on sales.
“It will keep growing, but it will slowly grow,” Howard said. “It gives us a great opportunity to add personnel on the way.”