Spokane Journal of Business

Barton Auto to develop new North Spokane dealership

Longtime company here also will soon debut Fiat brand

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Spokane-based Barton Auto Dealerships Inc., a longtime family business with a presence here since the 1920s, says it plans to develop a new showroom on Spokane's North Side and also soon will add the Fiat brand at its downtown dealership.

Company President Jeff Barton says the new North Side showroom is to be located on an 8 1/2-acre site, at 10701 N. Newport Highway, just east of YMCA of the Inland Northwest's North Spokane recreation facility.

"We have been looking for a number of years to expand to North Spokane, and the timing is right for us," Barton says.

The new dealership site is planned to have 24,000 square feet of showroom and maintenance space, Barton says. He adds that the company plans to build on the front half of the lot facing the Newport Highway. The back half, he says, will remain vacant and designated for future company growth.

Barton says that the new dealership facility will sell the Chrysler, Dodge, Jeep, and Ram brands. He says some site preparation work already is under way there, and construction of the showroom, service garage, and inventory lot should begin soon. He says the new dealership should be open in late 2012 or early 2013.

Barton declines to disclose anticipated construction costs for the new facility, or to say how much it paid for the land it bought there from Pinewater Plaza LLC. Spokane-based Garco Construction Co. is the contractor for the new dealership facility.

Meanwhile, Barton says the company plans early next month to add four models manufactured by Italian automaker Fiat to its downtown Spokane dealership, located at 1002 W. Second.

The business name for that new endeavor is Barton Fiat, and Barton says the dealership's former Saturn brand showroom will house the Fiat line.

Some minor exterior modifications will take place to that 30,000-square-foot showroom and service facility throughout the next month and a half, he says.

The subcompact, fuel-efficient Fiat 500 line to be sold there is a car that Barton feels will be well-received by Spokane buyers, and its models range in price between $15,000 and $25,000, he says. Barton says the nearest Fiat dealers to the Spokane market are located in Seattle, Portland, Ore., and Boise, Idaho.

Barton says the company currently employs about 60 people here, at its downtown facilities and a dealership in Spokane Valley, at 10819 E. Sprague, that primarily sells Jeep models as well as used cars.

He expects that after the North Side location and the downtown Fiat showroom open, around 30 new employees will be added. He says until business for each of those new ventures picks up, the company likely will move around employees as needed from its current operations.

Barton says that along with the company's decision to add the Fiat line of cars to its inventory, he plans to add the Alfa Romeo brand to its offerings next year. Alfa Romeo Automobiles is owned by Fiat, which also owns nearly 60 percent of Chrysler Group LLC. Chrysler is the manufacturer of the Dodge, Jeep, and Ram brands of cars.

Jeff Barton is the third generation owner of Barton Auto here, which was established by his grandfather, Ray Barton, in the 1920s. The company's headquarters in downtown Spokane have been located near the intersection of Monroe Street and Second Avenue since the '50s, and its Spokane Valley location opened in the '70s, Barton says.

"Now we are expanding to North Spokane 40 years later, and that gives us an operation in major parts of Spokane, and that's a good position for us to be in to satisfy the market," Barton says.

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