After losing their franchise in June 2009 when General Motors ended agreements with more than 1,000 dealerships, Holler Chevrolet in Winter Park and Classic Chevrolet in Altamonte Springs have decided to not close up shop, but instead move forward with a used-car business concept.
Expanding their used-car division, Driver's Mart, already located on both sites, the two stores will become two prototypes of the Driver's Mart Used Car Superstores concept, where the two locations will solely buy and sell used cars and provide routine maintenance and service for all makes and models, as well as continue servicing their Chevy customers.
With hopes to one day compete directly with used-car giant, CarMax, which has 100 stores nationwide, the Holler-Classic Automotive Group has modeled their used-car concept similar to CarMax's, but with one difference: maintenance and service stations.
However, Trina Lee, director of public affairs and communication for CarMax, said they have service departments at all their store locations nationwide and do service the vehicles they sell.
According to a February article in the Orlando Business Journal, "The new Driver's Marts will mirror several of Richmond, Va.-based CarMax's signature selling points, including offering a no-haggle purchase and incorporating fixed-commission salespeople so there's less pressure on the buyer. Driver's Mart also will triple CarMax's standard 30-day warranty on a used-vehicle purchase."
Lori Booker, spokeswoman for the Holler family, said the Hollers originally entered into arbitration to see whether they could renew their GM contract, but ultimately chose to end it for an undisclosed amount.
She said the increase in sales already pulled in by Driver's Mart—an increase of about 11 percent overall compared to last year—was a major reason.
"We were fairly confident it [arbitration] would be successful, but then we saw Driver's Mart double in sales for the dealerships compared to when we were only selling Chevys," Booker said.
"It really goes back to what Roger [Roger Holler III, president of the Winter Park-based Holler-Classic Automotive Group] said in the Orlando Sentinel about how 'our plan B worked so well, it's now our plan A.'"
Holler's quote was originally printed in a May article of the Orlando Sentinel.
Because the Holler-Classic Automotive Group ended arbitration with GM, Booker said the original Oct. 31 deadline for their contract to end no longer applies and that the Holler's are trying to "wrap up and end ties quickly to close out the Chevrolet relationship."
"When you have a partnership you're part of a team where you are told where to be located and what you sell, but now the Hollers are wholly independent entrepreneurs at these two locations," she said.
The Hollers own several other new-car dealerships selling leading industry makes and models. But it all started in 1938 with the Holler Chevrolet dealership that moved to Winter Park in 1966.
Booker said the Hollers will always have a place in their hearts for Chevrolet even as their 71-year partnership ends. William E. "Bill" Holler was a vice president at GM and general sales manager of Chevrolet from 1929 to 1945.
Randy Parks, president of the Central Florida Auto Dealers Association, said, "I would think that as an outside observer, because of their [the Hollers] storied tradition that any facet of the business they consider being in will be a positive maneuver on their part."
Full transition looms
Booker said she didn't know when the termination of the partnership would be finalized, but that those two locations will be making the entire transition to Driver's Mart Superstores in the coming months as they hope to hire more than 50 sales personnel and technicians with an array of experience working with different makes and models.
No layoffs occurred because of the Driver's Mart concept moving forward.
She said about 11 or 12 people have already been hired, but that the company is looking for more certified technicians and sales personnel at the two locations.
"We're very service-oriented and have the same emphasis on customer service as we did before," she said.
Looking toward the future, Booker said that if the Driver's Mart concept continues to be well-received, that expanding statewide and then nationally is the next step.
But for now, she said the Hollers are focusing on "fine-tuning the concept" before head-to-head competition with CarMax becomes a reality.
Parks said, "Knowing the Hollers and their success rate, they'll do quite well."