Tag Archives: Auto Dealers

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The road map for succession planning becomes more complex

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While the succession to a fourth generation of Smith auto retailers has mostly gone well, it has taken a lot of planning to keep the business in family hands through wars, recessions and several brand changes.

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Williston, North Dakota, is home to America’s newest airport

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America’s newest airport opened to passengers on Oct. 10 when United Airlines Flight 4643 touched down, commencing a new era of connectivity to this growing part of North Dakota and its important oil fields.

Williston Basin International Airport (code: XWA) is located 10 miles northwest of the city, which is itself in the northwestern part of the state. The region is home to the oil fields operated in the Bakken Formation. The area is currently experiencing a boom in output and drives the local economy.

Williston was traditionally served by the much smaller Sloulin Field airport close to downtown. However, this facility, which opened in 1947, could not expand any more, limiting the number of passengers that could be handled by its tiny terminal and the aircraft sizes used by airlines.

A decision to replace the airport was explored as early as 2011, with groundbreaking on the new site taking place in October 2016. Meanwhile, at its peak, Sloulin Field was handling over 120,000 passengers per year in facilities recently upgraded to handle 10,000.

The new Williston airport has been designed to handle much larger aircraft as well as growing passenger demand from the outset. With its opening, Sloulin Field will close down.

It is the first new commercial airport in the United States since Denver International opened in 1995 to replace Stapleton International. Then, as now, United Airlines was the first to fly into the new facility. Flight 4643 from Denver was operated by an Embraer 145, a service which will be flown daily, and will soon be complemented by a Delta Connection link from Minneapolis St. Paul.

Building a new airport on a completely undeveloped site brings enormous costs and challenges. Williston has cost an estimated $273 million.

Commenting recently, Kevin Ploehn, Billings, Montana’s director of aviation and transit, said, “You have to build all that infrastructure underneath, get all the lights and all that — so it’s an expensive deal. And then to build a new terminal from scratch and then try to move everybody over — that’s a challenge, absolutely a challenge — I’m glad it’s them and not me.”

Image: XWA Airport

Built into Williston is the ability to expand, which Sloulin Field could not do. While a couple of daily regional jets is the norm at the moment, the ability to handle larger jets and with greater frequency will enable the city to work with the growing oil industry and welcome more business users and workers, and a growing local population.

“The opening of the Williston Basin International Airport is a monumental achievement that will greatly help to serve our growing population and business community in western North Dakota,” said Kyle Wanner, the North Dakota Aeronautics Commission executive director.

The new airport features two runways, a passenger terminal with four gates (three of them with boarding bridges) and the capacity for 350,000 passengers per year. A short link road connects the airport to U.S. Route 85.

Airport Director Anthony Dudas considers the project an overwhelming success and is looking forward to seeing the airport grow. “While it’s been nine years through its initial infancy to where we’re at today, that is the fastest that I’m aware of that it’s even been accomplished in commercial service airport relocation, from its idea to actual commencement of operations,” he said.

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The guiding light, across 17 stores

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As corporate controller, Marissa Hunt oversees compliance, accounting and human resources, but she also has a seat at the table as the LaFontaine Automotive Group hones its vision and considers acquisitions.

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NADA elects Minnesota’s Paul Walser as next vice chairman

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The National Automobile Dealers Association has elected Minnesota’s Paul Walser as its next vice chairman, meaning he is likely to serve as chairman in 2021.

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Data dashboard

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A Cox Automotive study reveals some encouraging findings for dealers.

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Ex-employee’s lawsuit claims Mercedes dealer used racial slurs, boasted of overcharging black customers

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Jeffrey Turner says in the federal lawsuit filed last week that Mercedes-Benz of Lafayette fired him in October 2017 after he reported offensive conduct to the automaker. He is seeking damages and a trial by jury.

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Helping dealers track buyer behavior

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Alex Vetter, CEO of Cars.com, and Joe Chura, CEO of subsidiary Dealer Inspire, recently sat down with Automotive News to talk about the future of digital retailing, managing inventory and why leads aren’t the best measure of a dealer’s return on investment.

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KPA Adds to List of Training Industry Top 20 Awards

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KPA has been named a Top 20 training company by Training Industry for the second time in three months, this time in the health and safety category.

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Be personal, not creepy to customers

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More than half of consumers want dealers to know them better, but they also think personalization technology is creepy.

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Recall Sweep Targets AutoNation Dealerships

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The U.S. PIRG Education Fund issued a damning report after finding one in every nine used vehicles for sale at 28 AutoNation-owned locations in 12 states is subject to an open recall.

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