Libertyville auto dealers upgrade showrooms as business improves
Dan Marks, owner of Libertyville Lincoln, is one of many auto dealers in the village who are renovating showrooms. | Joe Shuman~Sun-Times Media
Updated: June 4, 2012 10:27AM
Dan Marks looks with pride over the newly remodeled showroom at his Libertyville Lincoln dealership on Milwaukee Avenue.
Over the past six months, the Lincoln car dealership which Marks owns has undergone a major facelift, including exterior facade renovations, new signage, an updated showroom and bathroom facilities and renovated service areas.
“We had a very good year in 2011 and with the economy improving and interest rates being real low, I felt it was the right time to do it,” he said.
After lean years during the recession in 2008 and 2009, Libertyville’s car dealers are beginning to see a rebound in sales and are starting to invest in upgrading their businesses. Spurred in part by an sales tax incentive program from the village, many car dealers are looking to renovate or update their businesses.
The most recent example is Libertyville Toyota Scion, which earlier this year announced it had acquired the adjacent four-acre former Saturn dealership for a planned future expansion and renovation.
Libertyville Mayor Terry Weppler believes a major reason for Toyota’s expansion is because of an incentive program which the village started about four years, which provides car dealerships with a partial rebate on future sales as a result of an upgrade or expansion of a dealership.
“If we had not have this incentive in place, we could have lost Toyota. This incentive helped them make the decision to stay and expand,” he said.
Mark Cannon, senior vice president for Auto Nation, the parent company for Libertyville Toyota Scion, said the company already has acquired the Saturn property for future expansion and is planning to begin an $8 million renovation of its existing Toyota facility sometime this summer. The renovations will include facade improvements, new signage, a renovated interior and new bathroom facilities.
Heather Rowe, economic development coordinator for Libertyville, said the village expects to receive more applications over the next few months from other Libertyville car dealerships who are looking to make significant site or facade improvements.
Rowe said automobile sales and uses account for more than half of sales tax revenue the village receives. Out of $5.8 million in total sales tax revenues in 2011, auto sales and uses accounted for $3.4 million. The dealers also are a significant source of employment for the community.
Rowe said the sales tax incentive program is based on a portion of future sales that car dealerships are expected to receive as a result of expanding or renovating their businesses and does not take away from existing sales tax revenue.
“We knew we needed to make a statement as village that we needed to retain this very important retail corridor,” she said.
Marks said the renovations to his dealership are expected to cost more than $1 million and the incentive program will help recoup some of those costs.
“I think it will definitely draw new customers,” said Marks of his remodeled dealership.
Jim Spellman, owner of Libertyville Chevrolet, renovated his business in 2008 with some help from the village’s incentive program. The renovation included exterior facade work, replacement of exterior windows and updated offices.
Spellman said he appreciates the support of the village and their loyal customers.
“Libertyville is a great town to do business,” he said.