Whitefish Ford VW and Kalispell Ford of Evergreen have united and relocated to a brand new 54,000-square-foot facility in North Kalispell that officially opens today.
The Kalispell Ford dealership has a larger capacity than both the old ones combined and features 26 service bays, said Milt Aus, who was the general manager at Kalispell Ford in Evergreen and will be the co-general manager of the new facility with his counterpart from the Whitefish store.
The new lot at 2000 Rose Crossing can hold about 300 cars, Aus said, but they hope to sell between 175 and 200 vehicles a month so will have a constant turnover in inventory.
The combined dealership technically opened Nov. 20, but Friday marks the grand opening. The ceremony, which runs from 4 to 7 p.m., will feature live music, refreshments and free samples from the new coffee bar, which they have dubbed “Great Escape.” They will be holding a ribbon-cutting event with the Kalispell Chamber of Commerce at 5 p.m., and will offer tours of the facility.
So far, Aus said the reception had been a good one. Customers have said they like the new facility, and having more space for comforts like the coffee bar help people spend longer mulling important decisions about purchasing a vehicle.
He also said parking was an issue at the Evergreen facility. The new lot, he said, has ample parking for folks who want to come and see what’s available.
Aus also noted the dealership’s nifty new boiler that can take old oil they harvest from cars during oil changes and use it to heat the facility. They also now have air conditioning available in the shop, something Aus said isn’t a big deal yet, but the technicians would sure appreciate come the summer months.
“It’s exciting to be able to provide a new environment for the employees as well,” Aus said.
Previously, Aus said the two facilities had about 80 employees between them. Since the new facility is larger, they have upped that to approximately 90 employees.
The new service area allows a team to work from a bay beneath the vehicle and another team to work under the hood above ground, making service stops more efficient. They also have an assortment of larger service bays to service vehicles like RVs. Service hours have been extended to 7 p.m. on weekdays to better serve customers, as well.
The dealership occupies one of 12 different lots in the Kalispell North Town Center development that began taking shape on 80 acres of land in North Kalispell earlier this March.
Gerrid Gandrud, owner of both of the older facilities and the new one, previously told the Daily Inter Lake that it made sense to merge the area dealerships into one large facility and that the move mimics similar business decisions made by dealerships in other Montana population centers.
Plans submitted for the new dealership valued it at $8.4 million.
The old Whitefish Ford VW dealership will move its Volkswagen operations to the facility in Evergreen at some point in the first quarter of 2018, Aus said. He is uncertain about what will happen to the space in Whitefish after that, but the Evergreen facility would continue to operate as a Volkswagen dealer into the foreseeable future.
Reporter Peregrine Frissell can be reached at (406) 758-4438 or firstname.lastname@example.org.