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Northtown Auto plans luxury retail hub in Clarence One location to sell Volvo, Land Rover and Porsche

Northtown Automotive is working on a "destination" hub to sell three luxury car brands on Main Street in Clarence.

By the end of the year, Northtown plans to have its Volvo, Porsche and Land Rover franchises under one roof, inside a facility that will be renovated and expanded. The total project cost is still being determined, said Lawrence Schreiber, a Northtown vice president.

Northtown acquired its Volvo franchise in March and bought its Porsche franchise from Thomas Culligan last month. It has had a Land Rover dealership, which operates in Amherst, since 1997.

The three brands will come together in a building just east of Transit Road that Northtown bought from Culligan. Porsche is already there. Volvo will move in from across the property, and Land Rover will relocate from Sheridan Drive.

The three dealerships will be connected under the same roof, with employees cross-trained to sell all three brands. But each dealership will have its own entrance and "boutique-style" interior and facade reflecting its own products, Schreiber said.

"We'll preserve the brand experience for each of these different franchises," he said.

Brian Culligan, Thomas Culligan's son, will be general manager of the combination dealership, which will be known as Northtown Volvo Porsche Land Rover. The 39,000-square-foot complex will have 57 employees.

Schreiber said Northtown already sees crossover between its Land Rover and Porsche customers. "We find people drive a Land Rover in the winter and a Porsche in the summer," he said.

And Land Rover needed more space to serve its customers than it presently has in Amherst, he said.

Northtown has the only Porsche, Land Rover and Volvo franchises in Western New York. The next closest upstate location for each is in Rochester.

But each brand also generates a small number of new-vehicle sales compared with the top sellers in the market. In 2008, there were 181 new Volvos sold in Western New York, along with 75 Porsches and 95 Land Rovers, according to the Niagara Frontier Automobile Dealers Association.

Schreiber said Northtown believes its sales of each could increase by 25 percent, partly due to the location. "It will be easier for customers to look at a wider variety of products under one roof," he said.

The impending move of Land Rover into the location was welcome news to Carlton Broca, a Northtown customer and Williamsville resident. He drives a Porsche 911 and a Range Rover, and he says it will be easier for him to go to one place for service.

The luxury brands have a special appeal to him. "These cars are investments," said Broca, vice president of a medical devices firm. "They're not just something you're going to drive. It's like a Rolex."

Northtown should also benefit from the aggressive leasing programs by Porsche, Land Rover and Volvo that put their vehicles within reach for more people, Schreiber said. Each brand has high residual value.

And the Main-Transit area is a good fit since showrooms for other luxury brands are clustered nearby, drawing customers in the market for those types of vehicles, Schreiber said.

"Trying to put projects together like this is a challenge," Schreiber said. "But when things make sense, you overcome those challenges. This made sense."

Schreiber is a partner in Northtown along with his brother, Craig; their father, Norman; and Joseph Calabrese.

In addition to the luxury car showrooms project, Northtown acquired the Auto Place Resale Center across Main Street and will operate it as Northtown Resale at Auto Place.

e-mail: mglynn@buffnews.com

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