Keeping up with the competition; car dealers look into city partnership

Although the owners of Carson City's car dealerships aren't talking much publicly about partnering with the city for redevelopment funds, they're thinking about it.

Carson City sealed a deal with Dick Campagni, owner of four Carson City dealerships, last month that provided a $3.6 million incentive for Campagni to buy six acres on South Carson Street for a new Toyota dealership.

The incentive is based on up to 20 percent of what the expanded Toyota dealership will generate in sales tax. The promissory note is similar to a term loan with a 5 percent interest rate payable over 10 years. He must also commit to stay in Carson City for up to 15 years and grow his business.

The city's position is that it's investing in the growth of auto dealers.

Campagni was the first of the city's big four auto dealers to sign up for the redevelopment funds. Joe McCarthy, economic development and redevelopment manager, said then that more are sure to follow.

And they have. Since news broke abut Campagni's deal, at least two other dealership owners have queried the city on the auto-row incentive program, which was approved by the supervisors March 17 to secure and stimulate auto sales investment along South Carson Street.

"We're having conversations with several other auto dealers in town," McCarthy said Monday. "Our next step would be to find out what their needs are, and how an individual package could meet their and the city's needs."

He anticipates the city will rely on anticipated sales tax growth, rather than up-front cash incentives.

Carson Jeep Nissan and Valley Chevrolet Pontiac have expressed interest, McCarthy said, but none have started the application process.

"In addition, we've always had very forthright and supportive conversations with (auto dealer) Michael Hohl. and we anticipate continuing to explore options that are in his and the city's best interests," McCarthy said.

Hohl, who owns three local dealerships, could not be reached for comment. Jeff Woodward, owner of Carson Jeep Nissan, said he's had a preliminary discussion with the city.

"But to go beyond that at this point would be premature," he said.

Jay Bates, general manager of Valley Chevrolet Pontiac, also wasn't saying much about future redevelopment plans.

"Valley Chevrolet is committed to Carson City, and we intend to be a viable part of this community for a long time to come, and, yes, we are in a growth mode," Bates said.

But redevelopment funds aren't just for those dealerships already entrenched. McCarthy said a Reno businessman who plans to introduce a ZAP Car dealership to Carson City could also apply for the program.

Bob Chauvin, who owns two Reno used-car dealerships, bought 1.46 acres at 3449 S. Carson St. on July 11. The vacant land sold for $725,000, according to Carson City records.

"He was very excited about the city's proactive approach to establishing auto row," McCarthy said. "He saw that as an opportunity to be part of a destination auto shopping center."

He said Chauvin, who could not be reached for comment, was "optimistic and positive" about establishing a new-car dealership in Carson City.

ZAP Cars are the Americanized versions of Smart Cars, which are fuel- efficient cars built to fit two passengers. Smart Cars have strong markets in urban areas with traffic problems and higher gas prices.

n Contact reporter Becky Bosshart at or 881-1212.


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