Tony Group's new autoplex will house all three of its automotive brands.
Long before he took over as president of his father’s company, Tony Group, in 1996, Stan Masamitsu had wanted to be a car designer. While other children grew up looking at picture books, the young Masamitsu preferred browsing the latest car brochures. He spent hours thumbing through automotive magazines, learning how to draw a variety of cars and trucks. He may not be designing cars, but last September Masamitsu announced plans to consolidate Tony Group's leasehold properties, thereby giving him the chance to design the next best thing—the ultimate automotive dealership.
Scheduled to open mid-June with a price tag of roughly $9 million, Tony Group's six-acre fee-simple property in Waipio will house the island's first "autoplex," which will feature three different automotive brands under one roof. According to Masamitsu, the consolidation of the company's Aiea-based leasehold properties (including Tony Honda, Tony Nissan and Tony Volkswagen) will allow for controlled fixed costs for the business, customer convenience and enhanced features and services.
Whereas the former Tony Honda dealership was originally the old Primo Beer factory, and the Tony Volkswagen store was once an old car wash, the new facility will be custom-designed from the ground up. The autoplex will be a sort of mini-mall for those in the market for a new or used car. At 65,000 square feet, Tony Group’s autoplex is much smaller than those on the mainland but offers the same types of services. The autoplex will feature an automated car wash and an executive customer lounge where clients may plug in their laptops or conduct business while waiting.
"Industry-wide, I think there really is a continuing trend of investment into new dealer facilities because of old facilities being outdated and a lot of dealers losing their leases," says Eric Miyasaki, president and chief executive officer of Nissan Motorcorp in Hawaii, the state's only Nissan distributor.
Miyasaki doesn't expect the consolidation of the company's three major automotive brands to cause any competition that already doesn't exist. Relative to what he's projecting to be a flat automotive retail market in 2001, Miyasaki actually expects, once the autoplex opens, that Tony Group’s sales of Nissan will increase by 15 percent.
Tony Group last year took a 10 percent hit in revenues, following a divestment of the company's less-profitable brands, Oldsmobile and GMC. This year, Masamitsu predicts little change to 2000 year-end revenues of $147 million, but does expect new car sales to increase by roughly 10 percent. "Right now we're projecting no change. We may take a small step back before we can take a step forward," he says.
When sales do increase, Masamitsu predicts market share will follow. According to Masamitsu, on Oahu, where there are three Volkswagen, Honda and Nissan dealers each, the Tony Group has about a third of the market for both Volkswagen and Honda, and roughly 40 percent for Nissan. "I think for new car purchases, this autoplex will bring customers in from our competitors because it's almost like an attraction, then it'll be up to us to earn the business from there."
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