Originally Published: November 10, 2018 6:14 p.m.
One day is all it took for Earnhardt Liberty Kia to become Prescott Valley Kia — at least in terms of signage and management.
“The sale took some negotiating,” said John Bissot, one of the dealership’s new owners/operators.
On Thursday, Nov. 8, the dealership was temporarily closed so the new owners could settle in. It reopened under the new name and vision the following day.
Earnhardt Auto Centers had owned the store for five years, but when opportunities to expand its presence in the Prescott area appeared limited for the foreseeable future, it decided to sell the location and its inventory to Zamora Auto Group, which has owned both Prescott Honda and York Dodge Chrysler Jeep RAM for about seven years.
“We certainly don’t want anyone to think that we don’t want to be [in the Prescott area],” said Chris Kerr, vice president of marketing for Earnhardt Auto Centers. “It’s just a matter of putting yourself where your strengths are and grow accordingly. With [Zamora Auto Group] already having two stores in Prescott, it made sense that they could expand their footprint there. Whereas with us, it was just a single dealership.”
Zamora Auto Group agreed with this mentality and was glad to expand its presence into the Prescott Valley area.
“It was a natural decision for us,” Bissot said. “We like to operate in smaller communities on a smaller scale.”
As a family-owned and operated business, Earnhardt specifically wanted to sell to another family-owned and operated business, Kerr said. Both companies also wanted to ensure that the dealership’s employees were taken care of. Of the 31 people who worked at the Kia dealership for Earnhardt, two maintained employment with Earnhardt and the remaining 29 will continue to work at Prescott Valley Kia under Zamora, Bissot said.
“And we’ll add some more (employees); we need to,” Bissot said.
As soon as the sale was finalized, Bissot and his partners decided to promote York Dodge’s Sales Manager Mike Poirier to General Manager of Prescott Valley Kia.
“Great guy,” Bissot said about Poirier. “He actually grew up in Prescott Valley.”
Zamora’s vision for the Kia dealership is to expand its inventory significantly.
“We’re going to have not only more new Kias to offer, but a larger selection of used cars, and we’re going to focus on trucks,” Bissot said.
The owners are even toying with the idea of officially calling the dealership Prescott Valley Kia, Used Car and Truck Center.
“At our other dealerships, we sell new trucks,” Bissot said. “Well, here there’s no new trucks, so we want to get the word out that we will stock used trucks.”
Though Tex Earnhardt — the patriarch of the family business — has tipped his hat to the Prescott area for the time being, that may not be the case forever.
In 2014, Earnhardt received a letter of intent (LOI) from Volkswagen and his proposition was to build a 10,000-square-foot VW showroom next to Liberty Kia in Prescott Valley.
Not long after, it was unveiled that VW was cheating emissions tests in the U.S., causing Earnhardt to rethink his plans.
“Given the problems that Volkswagen faced and given the flattening volume of automotive sales in the market over the last two years, we’re approaching investments in buildings and capital with some business sensibility,” Kerr said.
However, should the economy and market conditions become more favorable for that particular manufacturer, Volkswagen and Earnhardt will discuss their options to reenter the Prescott-area market, Kerr said.