TMCNet:  Paul Blanco says he's set to shut Sacramento car dealership

[April 11, 2008]

Paul Blanco says he's set to shut Sacramento car dealership

(Sacramento Bee, The (CA) (KRT) Via Thomson Dialog NewsEdge) Apr. 11--Paul Blanco told The Bee on Thursday that he is preparing to abandon the once dealership-rich Florin Road corridor as the domestic automakers continue their push to reduce the ranks of dealers in Sacramento and other cities around the nation.

Blanco, owner of Paul Blanco Chevrolet, said Thursday that he had accepted an offer from General Motors Corp. to voluntarily close his dealership at 3815 Florin Road. He will continue to sell new and used vehicles on-site until inventory is gone.

"There is no closing date," he said. "Chevrolet is giving me as long as I need to get rid of our vehicles."

Blanco follows in the path of the owners of Senator Auto Group, who, in late March, said they would accept an offer from Ford Motor Co. and end sales of the carmaker's new vehicles at their lot at 3801 Florin Road on May 15.

While Senator will continue to sell used cars from its location, Blanco said he is looking for a buyer for the 15-acre parcel on which his dealership sits.

"We're looking at selling the property for a multi-use project to fit the master plan of the city," Blanco said. "The land is worth more than the car dealership."

Ford, General Motors and Chrysler LLC have all been losing money and are pursuing consolidation to reduce overall costs and avoid situations where same-brand dealerships are cannibalizing one another's customers.

Even as they reduce the number of dealers, the Big Three automakers are also attempting to slash labor costs and reduce production costs, offering a wave of buyouts to employees and slating factories for closure.

Blanco did not disclose the financial terms of the buyout agreement with Chevrolet. He said he has talked to Southern California investors who want to develop the Chevrolet store site for retail and housing.

He stressed, however, that "we're still taking offers from all interested parties," even as those property sale talks are ongoing.

He did say, however, that he was contemplating a career change once the pending deals were completed: "My dream is to create my own ad agency."

Blanco has long bemoaned the loss of customer traffic at his dealership, also known as Capitol City Chevrolet, as well as the departure of auto dealers from Florin Road.

In 2006, in an attempt to pump up his sales and revitalize the surrounding retail climate, Blanco spent nearly $1 million to open an outdoor market, the Sacramento Fresh Air Market, on his property.

On Thursday, Blanco said the market will remain open until a change of land ownership is complete.

Once a must-stop for many local car shoppers, Florin Road has been steadily losing auto dealers who have moved to other sites, particularly the Elk Grove Auto Mall.

Senator Ford once claimed to be the area's top sales-volume Ford dealership. Sales of used cars will continue there, and Senator Auto Group will expand existing rental-car operations and maintain its body shop. Senator Hyundai-Subaru-Mazda at nearby 3655 Florin Road will also continue operations.

Larry Carr, executive director of the Florin Road Partnership, said that he's concerned about the loss of Blanco Chevrolet and Senator's decision to stop selling new Fords.

"You look out 20 years. Do you see any of those (other) auto dealers still there? I don't," he said.

Carr said the city needs to start making comprehensive plans for new uses of the current and now-departed dealerships in the area.

"You see these dominoes falling one at a time. I see them being sold off piecemeal and replaced piecemeal," Carr said. "Would-n't it be nice to have a comprehensive development plan so there's some continuity?"

To see more of The Sacramento Bee, or to subscribe to the newspaper, go to http://www.sacbee.com/.
Copyright (c) 2008, The Sacramento Bee, Calif.
Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.
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