Car-racing legend Roger Penske made a local pit stop last Thursday to admire his company's complete overhaul of Mercedes-Benz of Fairfield.
"This is a by-product of 10 years of ownership, so it's exciting to see the restoration and what we've accomplished," said Penske, 73, of the Autohaus initiative with Mercedz-Benz USA. He noted his red 1955 Mercedes-Benz 300 SL Gull Wing and black 2011 Mercedes-Benz SLS, both on-hand in the new showroom. "It's amazing when you see the history of Mercedes."
The renovation was part of a $22 million project by Penske to upgrade a Mercedes service facility nearby in 2005, and in 2008 redo its Porsche of Fairfield and Audi of Fairfield showrooms and build a SmartCar of Fairfield location. Penske, which owns eight Mercedes-Benz U.S. locations and 310 car dealerships selling 42 brands in the United States, the United Kingdom and Puerto Rico, also revamped its Honda of Danbury store last year.
The new dealership at 165 Commerce Drive, in Fairfield, has a display area for Mercedes Benz's performance brand AMG on its 15,864-square-foot showroom for 35 cars. The outside lot has been doubled to two acres to hold an additional 100 cars.
"Clearly, it's a better customer experience," said Randall Seymore, area vice president for Penske Auto Group, adding that Mercedes-Benz's U.S. sales were up 29 percent since last year, despite the slow economy. "It is a challenge but it makes you focus more on the customer."
The new Mercedes-Benz of Fairfield is a wonderful addition to town, said Mark Barnhart, Fairfield's director of economic development.
"It's gorgeous," he said as he stood amid the new cars. "They've made a big investment here and we wish them many years of happy success."
Mercedes-Benz of Fairfield will donate $50 to the Bridgeport Rescue Mission for every car it sells this month.
Publicly traded Penske Automotive Group, the world's second-largest automotive dealership group and is based in Bloomfield Hills, Mich., in late July reported a net income of $29.4 million, or 32 cents per share, for this year's second quarter, compared with a net income of $14.1 million, or 15 cents per share, for the year-ago period. Shares closed Friday at $12.88, up 56 cents.
Extensive overhauls of high-end vehicle showrooms tend to be expensive projects for the dealer that are sometimes supported by concessions from the manufacturer, including giving the dealer access to the hottest-selling cars, said Maryann Keller, president of Stamford-based automotive consulting firm Maryann Keller & Associates LLC.