Curious about the half-finished Hyundai dealership in North Augusta? You’re in good company.
Progress at the future car lot stalled many months ago and has yet to resume. The developer, Texas-based car dealer Alan Reuber, initially said the 16,000-square-foot Hyundai of North Augusta store would be open in spring 2019 after he first broke ground in the summer of 2018.
When that target was missed, a new grand opening date was set for summer 2019. Well, here we are deep into into the fourth quarter and still no visible progress at the 9.5-acre site at 5585 Jefferson Davis Highway.
I’ve sought semi-frequent updates from Reuber on the project since it missed its first and second opening dates. His latest communique forecasts an opening in “early March.” For all the folks calling and emailing about the dealership’s status, there you have it.
Generally speaking, new car dealerships are essentially partnerships between automakers and the independent businessmen and businesswomen that operate them. The car companies exert a fair amount of control over the dealerships because, after all, it is their cars being marketed.
Hyundai most likely would not have granted Reuber the franchise unless he was thoroughly vetted and had the up-front capital to secure the not-so-inconsequential financing required – about $10 million – to build the dealership and take delivery of about 200 new and 150 pre-owned cars.
Obviously, something went awry from the time construction started until the contractor walked off the site. Based on my calls and emails to Reuber, the delay was caused by some sort of financing hiccup. He hasn’t shared the details because, quite frankly, a privately held company’s finances are none of my business. Or yours for that matter.
The setback doesn’t necessarily mean the dealership is dead, but it certainly explains why it is more than a half-year behind schedule.
Personally, I’m operating on the assumption Reuber can see the project through to completion. This isn’t his first rodeo in the car business (he’s owned dealerships in other states), and it’s not exactly the first time a major car lot in Augusta has ran into timeline snags. You may recall the semi-new Jim Hudson Lexus dealership on Washington Road in Martinez also had months-long delays. The luxury dealership now appears to be doing quite well.
If and when the North Augusta store opens, it would be the market’s second Hyundai dealership (with Taylor Hyundai on Washington Road in west Augusta being the other). Reuber has said his dealership’s sales, service and parts departments would employ about 50, including himself as general manager, after he relocates from Dallas.
I’m not in the market for a new vehicle, so it matters little to me, personally, whether the dealership opens or remains in stasis. But from a big-picture, regional-economic perspective, I take no pleasure in seeing a major retail operation having a failure to launch.
Hopefully, Reuber gets the dealership up and running early next year.
SPEAKING OF CARS: As most consumers know, the value of a new car plummets the moment it leaves the lot. So if you’re planning to purchase a new vehicle, you might be interested to know which ones in Augusta retain their value the longest.
An analysis of 7.7 million new and used car sales by iSeeCars.com found Jeeps and Toyotas have the lowest depreciation rates in the Augusta metro area, with the Jeep Wrangler topping the list at an average five-year depreciation rate of 28.8%, compared to 49.6% for all vehicles.
I’m not surprised, given the number of Jeeps I see on the road with “Punisher” decals on the rear windows.
Rounding out the top five are the Jeep Wrangler Unlimited, also at 28.8%; the Toyota Tacoma at 31.1%; the Toyota 4Runner at 33%; and the Toyota Tundra at 34.1%.
And if you’re looking to score a deal on a used car, you might want to consider buying a vehicle that isn’t white, red, black or blue. The research firm found the best used-car deals in the area were for silver-colored vehicles, which were 10.6% more likely to be on sale than other colors.
Other good deals, according to iSeeCars.com, were vehicles in the colors of gray (5.5%), brown (2.6%), orange (1.1%) and gold (0.6%). Cars least likely to be on sale are those colored yellow (-1%), white (-1.3%), red (-2.7%), black (-4%) and blue (-4.2%).
ON THE HOME FRONT: Cars are second only to housing as the biggest consumer expense. But it’s not just the home – it’s paying for all the items inside that put a dent in your wallet.
Buying those household items should be a little easier for the 100-plus locals who score a job at the soon-to-open Pegusus Home Fashions bedding and home products plant in Denmark, S.C. The New Jersey-based maker of bed pillows, memory foam, bedspreads, blankets and sheet sets expects to create 113 jobs at the Bamberg County facility at 1349 Locust Ave.
The family-owned company is accepting applications through its website for the operation – their first manufacturing and distribution facility in the Southeast.
HOW ‘BOUT THAT ECONOMY?: I keep hearing the next recession is right around the corner. But I’m not seeing overwhelming evidence at a local level to support that.
Yes, the past week saw a couple of major employers – GE Grid Systems in Waynesboro and Augusta’s Resolute Forest Products plant – announce shutdowns, but new job growth in the area keeps chugging along while unemployment continues trending downward.
The Georgia Department of Labor reports the unemployment rate for the 13-county “Central Savannah River” region fell in September to an all-time low, decreasing 0.9% to 3%. Last year at this time, the jobless rate was 3.9%. Georgia’s October unemployment rate was 3.6%, a number that hasn’t been seen since 2000.
Considering that economists consider anything between 4%-5% “full unemployment,” I think it’s safe to say that anyone who wants to work can find a job somewhere in the Augusta-Aiken region.
Other evidence of a strong local economy comes from real estate data firm CoreLogic, whose most recent report shows foreclosures in the metro area were down one-tenth of a percent to 0.4% in August compared to last year. And that figure mirrors the national average, which is the lowest rate in 20 years.
The percentage of Augusta-area homeowners in some form of delinquency – considered one month or more behind on payments – fell three-tenths percent during the same period to 5.3%. That suggests locals are doing a better of making ends meet than they did last year.
But you shouldn’t take economic forecasting advice from me – take it from the folks with a Ph.D. who follow leading and lagging indicators and other wonky economic statistics. Augusta University and the University of Georgia’s economic forecasters usually give their next-year outlooks in December and January.
I’ll be sure to tell you what they tell me.
QUICK HITS: Enough with the macro news. Here’s some street-level tidbits around town that you might find titillating:
• Kroger Co. has just launched free grocery pickup service at its area stores for a limited time. The $4.95 fee is being waived through Jan. 1. You’ll also notice the supermarket chain’s new logo popping up in the area soon.
• Walmart has announced that beer and wine pick-up sales are now eligible at all area stores where its Walmart Grocery Pickup service is offered. Have your ID ready when they bring out the bags.
• Hawaii-based federal contracting firm Hui Huliau (pronounced hoo-wee hoo-lee-ow) has acquired cybersecurity and IT-training company LNO Inc. The locally headquartered company has about 120 people on its payroll at three offices throughout town.
• Old-timey barbershop chain V’s Barbershop has opened a storefront location in the Mullins Crossing shopping center at 616 Mullins Colony Drive in Evans. The shop, which features 1960s era barber chairs and uniformed barbers, is operated by local franchisees Sam Minter and Joe Testino.
• The Zaxby’s restaurant at 2629 Peach Orchard Road is closed in preparation of a top-to-bottom renovation.
• Dental lab service provider Forever Aligned Club opened its newest Augusta-area location in the downtown central business district at 985 Broad St.
• Security Federal Bank this past week declared a quarterly dividend of 10 cents per share payable to shareholders of record as of Nov. 30. The Aiken-based community bank will make the payment – its 116th consecutive quarterly dividend – on Dec. 15.
• Work has begun on the new O’Reilly’s Auto Parts store at 4475 Washington Road in Evans.
• The former PDQ restaurant that closed last month at 4311 Washington Road is already under contract to a new restaurant tenant. Details will be forthcoming once the sale closes.
• Square-burger chain Krystal Co. recently announced plans to sell 100-150 of its company-owned stores, including those in Augusta, to qualified franchisees. Wanna be a small business owner? Here’s your chance.
• Dollar General has opened its 237th metro area store (just kidding, it’s only the 30th) in Aiken at 950 East Pine Log Road.
That’s all, for now…
Reach Damon Cline at (706) 823-3352 or [email protected]