Closing brings brands together
Kyle Geissler talks with Janesville Gazette business editor Jim Leute about how "channeling" may have influenced changes in the local car dealership landscape.
JANESVILLE It turns out that Clayton Stockwell and his partner knew best in 1939 what finally has come home to roost in Janesville: General Motors should sell Buicks and Pontiacs on the same lot.
Earlier this week, Rock County Buick Honda GMC bought the Pontiac line from Everhart-O'Leary Motors, which closed its doors and sold its Mazda dealership to Gordie Boucher Ford-Lincoln-Mercury and its Volkswagen line to Frank Boucher Chrysler Dodge Jeep.
The consolidation of GM brands is known in industry circles as channeling, where a combination of several brands are sold and serviced at a single dealership.
"It's the way the industry is going with the consolidation of several brands under one roof, and GM wants one store for Buick, Pontiac and GMC," said Dick Stockwell, Clayton's son and the owner of Rock County Buick Honda GMC.
"The easy consolidations have taken place over the last few years, and the tougher ones are just now occurring. They're tougher because they involve successful dealerships."
After working as a car salesman, Clayton Stockwell and David Williams bought Rock County Auto Co. in 1939. The dealership was selling Buicks and Pontiacs, but GM told Stockwell and Williams that they had to pick one or the other.
They opted for Buick and opened Rock County Buick on the east end of the Court Street bridge in downtown Janesville.
"He wanted them in 1939, and it's taken 69 years to reunite the two brands at the same store," Dick Stockwell said.
As a long-time GM dealer, Stockwell said Pontiac fits his plans. After Monday's closing, Everhart-O'Leary's Pontiacs made their way to Stockwell's showroom at 3636 E. Milwaukee St., which opened in 1970 after moving from Franklin Street.
For now, the dealership is named Rock County Buick Pontiac GMC Honda, and Stockwell has hired former Everhart-O'Leary salesmen Cecil Davis and Dan Gable.
The dealership's name, however, will change by the end of next year, when Stockwell opens a new 25,000-square-foot Honda dealership on the Milton Avenue site occupied by Everhart-O'Leary. The existing 10,500-square-foot Everhart-O'Leary building will be razed to make way for the prototype Honda store.
"I just can't reuse the existing building, and that's a shame because they put a lot of money into it not too long ago." Stockwell said. "More than 50 percent of the Honda dealers have renovated or gone into these new buildings."
Stockwell said his Honda business is up 20 percent this year, which helped drive his acquisition of Pontiac.
"Honda is really the sweet spot in the market right now," he said. "They've held true to their core values and have refused to build a V-8 engine. They're offering phenomenal power and quality in 4- and 6-cylinder engines."
Stockwell acknowledged that he could build a new Honda store less expensively on the land he already occupies at the corner of East Milwaukee Street and Wright Road.
But he likes the idea of Milton Avenue exposure and—with neighbor Fagan Chevrolet-Cadillac—the consolidation of GM brands at that intersection.
"Despite the downturn in the overall economy, I still believe in Janesville and that's one of the reasons while I'll continue to invest in Janesville," he said.
"When you take the long-term view, I've been through my share of downturns, but things have always bounced back. It's a cyclical business."