Harris Victoria Chrysler Dodge Jeep Ram, Vancouver Island’s largest-volume domestic dealership, officially welcomed the public to its new state-of-the-art facility in Langford at a grand opening event Wednesday.
“This is the new flagship of our eight-dealership chain,” said Craig Sabourin, president and co-owner of the Harris Auto Group. “This is also a vote of confidence of our sustained growth on Vancouver Island.”
The dealership employs 75 people and will feature a showroom, sales, service and parts departments on the ground level. The upper floor houses the administrative offices of the Harris Auto Group.
The group’s Vancouver Island holdings include Chrysler Dodge Jeep Ram dealerships in Duncan and Nanaimo, Kia and Mazda dealerships in Nanaimo and a Chevrolet Buick GMC dealership in Parksville. They also operate Hyundai and Honda franchises in Penticton.
The new 36,000-square-foot structure, designed by Victoria architect Alan Lowe, sits on 4.5 acres at Meaford Avenue and Veterans Memorial Parkway. It is about three times the size of the old Harris location at Yates and Cook streets in Victoria.
“We were bursting at the seams at our old location,” said Sabourin, who purchased the Chrysler Dodge Jeep Ram franchise five years ago.
The new building allows Harris more room to display vehicles indoors, individual offices for some staff and breathing room for mechanics in the service area.
“I finally got my own office,” said salesperson Rosalynd Cook, showing off a modern office with a large window letting in lots of natural light. “In the old building most of us didn’t have our own desks.”
Behind the scenes, the mechanics have much more room than they had in the old building. Although the 20-bay service department only adds four bays over the old facility, employees say the difference between the two places is dramatic.
“There is more light now and having heat in the work area is a nice bonus,” said Bob Chapman, who has been with the company for 10 years.
The bays are wider, making it easier to work without rubbing shoulders with other mechanics. The centre aisle in the workshop is wider, making ingress and egress easier. “You don’t need to make 30-point turns to get a car out.”
The old facility had a lower ceiling, and some tall vehicles could not be accommodated.
Sabourin chose one of the mechanics, who had been with the company for 43 years, to cut the ceremonial ribbon at the grand opening.
The dealership will also feature a sales staff member solely dedicated to internet sales, a side of the business that has caught on with consumers.
“We have been fortunate to get enough [vehicle] allocation,” said Josh Turpin, who only deals with online enquiries. “People shopping online do their research and have a better idea of what they want.”
He said some customers like to shop online, receive quotes and have online appraisals for trade-ins. He can arrange for them to take a test drive and take delivery at the dealership.
At the grand opening, Sabourin also talked about how the new location means that many employees will be able to spend more time with their families.
“About 80 per cent of our family work and live in the West Shore,” he said.
“Because they don’t have to drive into town every day, they get to spend a couple of hours a day more with their families.”