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Friday, 02 August 2013 10:30

Maserati heads to Grand Rapids with new Zeigler Automotive dealership

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Zeigler Automotive Group of Kalamazoo plans to open a new Maserati dealership in Grand Rapids. Zeigler Automotive Group of Kalamazoo plans to open a new Maserati dealership in Grand Rapids. MIBIZ: Joe Boomgaard

GRAND RAPIDS — One of West Michigan's largest dealership groups plans to bring the evocative sounds of rampaging Italian horsepower to customers on this side of the state.

Zeigler Automotive Group announced this morning that it has secured the rights to a brand-new Maserati dealership, which it plans to build next to its existing Fiat and Chrysler Dodge Jeep stores in Grandville.

The premium Italian automotive brand, which is owned by Fiat, has just 71 dealer outlets in North America, and only one store in Michigan, Maserati of Troy, some two and a half hours away from Grand Rapids.

The new 15,000-square-foot Maserati store is expected to move between 75 and 100 units per year, said Aaron Zeigler, president of Kalamazoo-based Zeigler Automotive, which ranks among the top 100 "mega dealers" in the country, according to WardsAuto Dealer Business.

The cost of the dealership has not been released. Construction will be handled by A.J. Veneklasen Inc. of Grand Rapids. The company hopes to break ground this fall.

Zeigler said launching the new dealership in greater Grand Rapids is a statement about the local and statewide economy.

"The economy is rolling ahead pretty good right now," Zeigler told MiBiz. "July was the biggest month in the history of our company — the second time that's happened this year. We believe in this market going forward."

Maserati is destined to be a brand in transition over the next several years. The company, which launched its redesigned Quattroporte sedan at this year's North American International Auto Show in Detroit, has long been associated with the high-end, premium luxury and sports vehicle segment, but it now plans to bring its Italian flair to buyers a lower price point.

Zeigler

Zeigler Automotive Group President Aaron Zeigler debuts a new 15,000-square-foot Maserati dealership in Grandville next to his company’s Fiat store.

MiBiz Photo: JOE BOOMGAARD

Moreover, with available all-wheel-drive across many of its models and a new SUV on the horizon, the brand now makes more sense for people living in Michigan's climate, Zeigler said.

With the Quattroporte starting around $90,000 and the Ghibli sedan and Levante SUV beginning at $60,000, the company plans to broaden its market appeal to people who might otherwise buy a BMW or Mercedes, Zeigler said.

"When people think Maserati, they think of a premium brand that builds cars in the $120,000 to $160,000 range," Zeigler said. "But with the three new models coming out ... from a customer's perspective, they can get a Ferrari-engined Maserati for $60,000 without having to pay $300,000 for something exotic."

Maserati sold 2,765 vehicles last year in the U.S. but has ambitious plans to increase sales about tenfold to 25,000 within the next two years, Zeigler said. His new franchise, which serves about a three-hour drive territory around West Michigan, is part of that plan to move more units.

"We'll be the only Maserati dealer between Detroit and Chicago," he said. "We feel very fortunate to be chosen."

News of the new dealership came just days after Zeigler Automotive acquired a coveted BMW dealership in the southwest Chicago suburb of Orland Park.

The store adds to Zeigler's portfolio of Chicagoland stores, including dealerships in Downers Grove, Ill. and Schaumburg, Ill. The acquisition is expected to add about $90 million in annual revenues for Zeigler.

Zeigler Automotive sought out the deal when the company learned the Orland Park store was potentially going on the market. The previous owner died suddenly just eight months after opening the brand-new store in the southwest corner of Cook County. Zeigler said he sent a letter to the owner's estate and by the end of July, they were able to get the deal done.

Attorney Peter Roth of Varnum LLP advised on the transaction.

"Chicago is a big market for us," Zeigler said. "Orland Park is about two hours from Kalamazoo, and it's one of the areas we've identified where we wanted to do business. It's a growing city," he said.

The store is a strong performer and is "substantially larger, probably seven times the size of what we have" at Zeigler BMW of Kalamazoo, Zeigler said. The new dealership, which will be known as Zeigler BMW of Orland Park, sits on about nine acres and features 60,000-square feet of sales, service and parts facilities. It has a modern, two-story showroom with a client lounge and space for more than 300 new units and about 80 used vehicles.

It's rare that one of the 300 or so BMW franchises in the U.S. ever goes up for sale, Zeigler said.

"BMW is one of the most coveted franchises in the car dealer world," Zeigler said. "The timing is just really good."

BMW sales in the U.S. have been strong for the first half of 2013, up 11 percent to 140,431 units compared to 2012, according to the automaker. Sales in June were up almost 25 percent on a year-to-year basis.

With 41 franchises and 17 dealerships, Zeigler Automotive Group — which had $516.86 million in revenue last year, according to a report in WardsAuto — also has stores in West Michigan and Elkhart, Ind. Zeigler said the company expects sales to be up 20 percent this year and projects revenue will top $700 million in 2014.

Read 5687 times Last modified on Friday, 02 August 2013 21:05
Joe Boomgaard

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jboo[email protected]

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