Hewlett Volkswagen in Georgetown has submitted plans to the city of Waco for construction of a dealership at 1401 W. Loop 340, which would make it part of what vehicle dealers there call Waco’s “Motor Mile.”
Bobby Horner, Waco’s inspection services supervisor, said Hewlett presented a site plan that envisions an 18,677-square-foot building next to Greg May Hyundai. City staffers are reviewing plans for the 5½-acre site and preparing questions the dealership must address before receiving a building permit to proceed, Horner said.
“This is a step in the direction of seeing a dealership on that site,” he said.
Long in the works
Hewlett announced its intention to place a Volkswagen dealership in Waco four years ago, shortly after Brazos Valley Auto Sales, Waco’s only VW dealer, closed.
“It’s downhill from here,” said John Chauvin, general manager of the growing dealership near Austin that sells Chevrolet, Buick and Volkswagen models on nearly 50 acres. “The city is finalizing some issues we will need to get worked out, and Waco can expect to see a dealership in place and stocked within 12 to 18 months.”
Scandal halted plan
Chauvin said a scandal involving Volkswagen’s use of sophisticated software to cheat on vehicle exhaust emission tests in the United States delayed the German automaker’s advance into Waco and other markets.
“Volkswagen has been in the news and wanted to put expansion on pause until the matter was resolved,” he said.
Volkswagen in 2015 admitted to cheating on emissions tests and pleaded guilty in a U.S. court, which found the company guilty of three felonies in connection with the scandal, according to a Reuters report.
The United States previously had indicted seven former and current Volkswagen executives because of testing irregularities. The company has agreed to spend $25 billion to resolve claims from owners and regulators and to buy back as many as 500,000 vehicles, according to Reuters.
Chauvin said Hewlett and Volkswagen are prepared to invest $2 million to $4 million in the Waco location. He said the dealership likely would employ 25 to 50 people, with hiring ramping up as business increases.
The closest Volkswagen dealership to Waco is Garlyn Shelton Volkswagen in Temple, which is about a 30-minute drive from Waco.
Chauvin said Hewlett started considering expansion into Waco about 18 months before it confirmed its interest in the area in 2013.
“We were intrigued by the Waco market,” he said at the time. “It has economic stability, Baylor University, a sizable medical-related presence. Most important of all, it needs a Volkswagen franchise.”
Since Volkswagen initially voiced interest in the Waco market, and the two-mile “Motor Mile” in particular, an Alfa Romeo-Fiat dealership has opened at West Loop 340 and Bagby Avenue. It represented a spinoff of the Allen Samuels Dodge Chrysler Jeep Ram dealership at 201 W. Loop 340 that also sold Fiat and Alfa Romeo models for a time.
Allen Samuels built a 57,000-square-foot dealership on West Loop 340 and moved there from its longtime site at Wooded Acres and Valley Mills drives.
Longtime Waco residents may remember the Volkswagen dealership that George Grubbs opened in the late 1960s. He and his sons later focused on the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex, owning a variety of dealerships carrying the VW, Porsche, Nissan, Mercedes-Benz, Lincoln and Mazda brands.
Volkswagen also announced last week it would start selling cars in Iran for the first time in 17 years, after a deal for several countries to lift sanctions in exchange for Iran curtailing its nuclear program, according to money.com.