Carson Group buys Pacific Mazda dealership in Victoria

Pacific Mazda, a fixture on Yates Street for more than three decades and one of the last independent vehicle dealers in the region, has been sold and is expected to move within two years to an as yet undetermined location.

The Carson Automotive Group completed a deal to acquire Pacific Mazda from partners John Pollen and Michael Stevulak this week.

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The Carson family operates 11 dealerships in Victoria and Vancouver, selling chiefly Ford brands as well as Jaguar, Land Rover and Mitsubishi.

Stevulak said the Pacific Mazda property, bordering Yates, Johnson and Cook streets, has been rezoned for residential and other uses, including a new fire hall and public safety building for Victoria.

The development at 1025 Johnson St. has city approval and is going ahead next year, leaving Pacific Mazda with a slightly smaller footprint.

The firehall and rental housing project by Dalmation Developments — a partnership between Jawl Residential and Nadar Holdings Ltd. — will have fire and ambulance bays and an emergency operations centre on the first two floors with 10 storeys above in affordable rental units.

Future residential development phases on the 1.8-acre Pacific Mazda property will follow, said Stevulak. In the meanwhile, it will be “business as usual” for Pacific Mazda, he said.

The Carson family will have a two-year lease on the property starting on Jan. 1, but could move it sooner, Stevulak said.

He said meetings with the Carson family are ongoing this week and would not speculate on the new Mazda location. Officials from Mazda Canada will be in Victoria this Wednesday to talk about new locations, said Stevulak.

“That will be up to the Carson family,” Stevulak said. “If it’s a new build, it might take the full two years. If it’s a reno [of an existing property] it could be sooner.”

Speculation is it will likely be along Douglas Street, where most of the city’s automotive dealerships are located, and possibly in or near a current Carson property.

The sale is part of recent trend in the local automotive sector, including the GAIN Group’s acquisition of Volvo Victoria from the Jim Pattison Auto Group. The dealership is moving from Hillside Avenue and Douglas Street to Yates Street, kitty corner from the current Mazda site.

Pacific Mazda was launched in 1986 by former Victoria mayor Peter Pollen, who acquired a small Mazda store on Blanshard Street from Bill Boothman. John Pollen, Peter’s son, and Brian Elmhurst operated the dealership and Stevulak came in as a partner in 1988 when it moved to its current location.

Pacific Mazda employs 50 people. It was one of the last independent dealerships, bucking a trend that has seen vehicle dealers band together in groups for bigger buying power and efficiencies in systems.

Stevulak said he’s happy about the sale to the Carsons as Pacific Mazda transfers from “one long-time family business to another.”

The Carson Group was founded by Frank Carson, who died in 2008. He had a partnership with Ford that lasted for six decades.

Carson started Suburban Motors with a partner in 1961, creating dealerships still operated by his family. Carson was well known in Victoria as a city councillor, where he was the driving force behind the Victoria Conference Centre, as well as a board member of the Greater Victoria Hospitals Society and B.C. Transit.

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