Times change at dealership

Published 12:00 am Thursday, November 29, 2007

FRANKIN_-Sadler Auto is undergoing quite a change in its business approach these days.

The seven-year-old dealership on Armory Drive is no longer selling new Chrysler or Dodge vehicles, and that showroom, building and its property along College Drive has been placed on the leasing market.

The service personnel members from that site have been folded into the operation on Armory Drive.

&uot;What we’re doing,&uot; said general manager Aubrey Harrison, &uot;is kind of downsizing.&uot;

Harrison, who was the general manager of the Emporia dealership, said, &uot;I think everybody understands that new car sales are down significantly. Everybody knows it.&uot;

So instead, Sadler is refocusing its efforts on selling pre-owned cars and trucks.

The strategy, said Harrison and co-general manager Larry Parrish, is to continue to sell new Ford and Mercury products while placing a renewed emphasis on service and creating a deeper inventory of preowned and &uot;product&uot; cars.

Both say the sale of new cars is being hampered, in part, by high gas prices – &uot;without a doubt,&uot; Parrish said. &uot;That’s a big hit in a family’s disposable income,&uot; he said.

Among the specifics of the plan, Sadler officials hope to target vehicles in the $12,000 to $16,000 price range – &uot;That’s a good payment,&uot; said Parrish. In addition, the dealership hopes to sell some cars for less than $10,000.

&uot;We want to keep the reputation of selling quality and service,&uot; said Harrison.

Another phase of the change is locating &uot;additional financial services&uot; for buyers, Harrison said.

A new marketing plan is being unveiled, one that emphasizes those changes.

There is a new sign along Armory Drive that reads, &uot;Elliott Sadler Ford,&uot; and advertisements are being published recognizing the different approach.

The response, Harrison said, &uot;has been very positive.&uot;

&uot;We’ve been telling people in the community what we’re doing,&uot; said Parrish.

Another marketing technique being employed is to leave open the hoods of the vehicles facing the street to gain visibility.

The two said results are being noticed by the public.

&uot;We had lunch the other day at Parker Drug,&uot; Harrison said, &uot;and one guy said across the lunch counter that ‘You’re the guys with the hoods up.’&uot;

Another facet of the makeover is trumpeting better service.

&uot;People are more comfortable buying a pre-owned car from a new-car dealership because of service,&uot; said Harrison.