Fox Motors acquires Ford dealership on Chicago's 'Motor Row'
Fox Motors is headed to downtown Chicago with its first dealership outside of Michigan’s borders.
Dan DeVos, president and CEO of Fox Motors, said his company had been weighing options that included putting clusters of dealerships in a smaller city or buying one in a larger city.
The latter option presented itself to him in the form of Maureen Joyce, owner of Joyce Ford Inc.
Joyce approached DeVos and made an offer he couldn’t refuse. Fox bought her franchise and location, he said, but only as a transitional location for the dealership.
The company plans to open a temporary 32,000-square-foot dealership in Chicago's historic “Motor Row,” which housed car dealers in the early 1900s.
The dealership, set to open by Feb. 1, will employ about 25 people and be located at McCormick Place Convention Center at 2401 South Michigan Ave.
DeVos will now work to secure permanent property 20 miles north in northern Chicago or the Lincoln Park area, where Fox is looking to build an 85,000-square-foot facility by 2015, which could employ more than 100 people.
“The market is strong, the industry is growing and Ford was the right company. We’re very fortunate to have all this coming together,” DeVos said. “It’s an under-served (market) in Lincoln. Just having a store there, I think in itself, will create excitement for a new product.”
DeVos said Michigan’s auto industry, although reviving, isn't providing as hungry a market as Chicago. The annual auto show in Detroit builds excitement, and he is hopeful the auto industry is making a comeback.
It’s just taking time.
“It’s certainly been steady. We keep making progress as a dealership and industry, although a lot of times it feels like it’s two steps forward, one step back,” DeVos said. “We haven’t been exposed to a lot of availability of dealerships lately.”
Chicago is a good expansion environment for Fox, said Diana Maher, CFO and senior vice president of Fox Motors, adding that Fox won’t be getting too far from home. The company philosophy is to always keep stores within three hours’ driving distance of each other, she said, making it easier for commuting and doing business.
Chicago is just within that time limit.
“The interesting side of the business in Chicago is it’s more robust, so there’s a bigger population, a philosophy of sales and the need to get people in and out of the system faster,” she said. “The challenge is parking cars. In the city, it’s definitely more problematic to store and show cars.”
Another challenge will be breaking into the market, which Maher plans to do with multiple marketing campaigns. Luckily, Chicago’s annual auto show, the largest of its kind in the nation, will take place right next to the dealership next month, she said. Other marketing tactics, such as social networking, bus banners and free giveaways, will help raise brand awareness, she said.
Maher said she is excited for the move, because of DeVos’s energy. DeVos’s daughters have lived in Chicago, and DeVos even bought a townhouse downtown. His love for his industry and Chicago, said Maher, is why the dealership has a good chance to be successful.
“We’ve developed as a business model, but the real charm is that our customers know us," Maher said. "Dan loves to hang out with the people in the business. It’s not just an investment for him — it's a passion."