Spokane Journal of Business

Used-car ‘superstore’ is coming to Spokane

Driver’s Mart outlet here to stock about 400 vehicles, employ touch-screen kiosks

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One of Spokanes biggest auto dealerships, Appleway Automotive Group, has bought the rights for Washington and Idaho to open nationally franchised used-car superstores called Drivers Marts, each of which is expected to carry large inventories of 350 to 400 vehicles and to boast annual sales in the $50 million range.

Tim Pring, who co-owns the family dealership with his brother, Brad, says Appleway is seeking sites to open a Drivers Mart superstore in Spokane by fall and one in Seattle by next spring. Its coming here and its coming soon, Pring says of the planned Drivers Mart.

So far, Drivers Mart Worldwide Inc., of Grand Rapids, Mich., operates just one such franchised superstore, in Neenah, Wis., but has about another 40 in various forms of development. The stores, says Pring, operate under a no hassle philosophy, in which asking prices for vehicles are set in defined ranges, rather than being subject to wide-open negotiations, and the salespeople are paid a salary, rather than being on commission.

The big lots are to feature cars that have been inspected and carry warranties of at least one year. At touch-screen computer kiosks, customers will enter information such as the price range theyd like to pay for a vehicle, what makes and models theyre interested in, and the options they want. The computer will print out a list of vehicles in stock that match those criteria.

Pring says Appleway hopes eventually to open a total of two or three of the superstores in the Puget Sound area, and one or possibly two in Idaho. The dealership also has first right of refusal to buy franchise rights for Drivers Mart outlets in Oregon, he says. He declines to disclose what sites Appleway is looking at in the Spokane area for its first Drivers Mart store.

As a franchisee, Appleways owners have become one of 24 auto dealers nationally who jointly own Drivers Mart Worldwide. Each franchisee becomes an owner of the parent company, explains Thomas W. Eggleston, president and CEO of Drivers Mart.

Eggleston says that each Drivers Mart superstore requires an investment by the franchisee of about $10 million, which includes the cost of the land and buildings for the outlet, and about $6 million worth of inventory. The stores likely will employ about 40 salaried salespeople, sell about 4,000 cars a year, and have annual revenue of between $50 million and $60 million.

Eggleston says three Drivers Mart superstores are expected to open by June in Salt Lake City, St. Louis, and Birmingham, Ala.

Drivers Mart competes nationally with other used-car superstores, such as AutoNation USA and CarMax Group, which are controlled respectively by Fort Lauderdale, Fla.-based Republic Industries and Richmond, Va.-based Circuit City Inc.

Appleway Automotive Group sells nine different new-car makes at its Spokane dealerships, which are located along Sprague Avenue in the Spokane Valley.

  • Lisa Harrell

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