Business

LKN Chrysler plans major expansion in Cornelius

Rendering for the proposed LKN Chrysler Dodge Jeep showroom

Lake Norman Chrysler Dodge Jeep has filed an application to build a new showroom—complete with an off-road test drive area—on 30 acres on Chartown Road along I-77. The Cornelius-based auto dealership will invest more than $17 million in the project, according to owner Jack Salzman.

Ground-breaking is tentatively scheduled for March or April of next year.

The veteran auto dealer said the expansion will ultimately bring 75 new jobs to Cornelius.

The existing store on Torrence Chapel will be devoted to used cars, accounting for 50 new jobs when the project is completed around August of 2022.

The proposed 46,800 square foot new car store on Chartown will net 25 new jobs, Salzman said. The project will include a site for a jet ski dealership as well.

Salzman

“It’s a big job win for Cornelius,” Salzman said.

A total of 6 acres within the 30 acres on Chartown will be available for additional development. The property, just south of Life Fellowship Church, would include a site for a building to be utilized as flex space.

The existing store on Torrence Chapel would become a high-end used-car store, with roughly 50 new jobs. There would be 25 new jobs at the new-car store on Chartown. Average compensation per employee is more than $55,000.

Right now there are 125 employees at the current store; Salzman estimates a total of 200 between the two stores when all is said and done in mid-2022.  There are about 50 employees at Carolina Custom located in the old Michael Waltrip building on Liverpool.

Salzman said he hopes to tap into a still-developing market for high-end used cars around $30,000 and up called “nearly new.”

According to McKinsey & Co. the US used-car market is more than twice the size of the new-car segment and is outpacing it in growth—this, before auto manufadcturing nearly ground to a halt when COVID-19 struck.

McKinsey says Americans buy about 40 million used cars each year, compared to 17 million new ones.

Salzman, who is on the national dealer council for Chrysler, said the automaker is developing a new image program that will be reflected in the tone and style of the new facility.

The dealership is in the Top Five in the US in Jeep Wrangler sales. Meanwhile, there is less demand for four-door sedans like the 300, a mainstay in the Chrysler line since 2005.

“American tastes have changed,” Salzman said. “They like the flexibility of cross-over SUVs and trucks. As American we haul stuff.”

At the same time, the industry is slowly but steadily heading to flexible vehicles: A 4XE Wrangler comes out soon, complete with a plug-in electric boost.

The dealership’s sales volume in 2020 was on the order of 4,500 new and used vehicles.

“Our goal is to be over 7,200 annually once all the facilities are open and operating,” Salzman said.

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