Honda dealer drives to Richland

RICHLAND -- McCurley Integrity Honda has finished its move to Richland.

The auto dealership's move from its smaller Kennewick lot to the former Lithia Ford location at 1775 Fowler St. was planned as early as last spring.

At that time, Bill McCurley bought the Lithia Honda dealership on Kennewick's West Clearwater Avenue, together with real estate and equipment at Lithia Ford.

He spent $2 million to remodel the 30,000-square-foot building and 6-acre site for the dealership.

"We upgraded infrastructure, the building interiors and added state-of-the-art equipment," said McCurley, president of McCurley Integrity Dealerships. The new facility will better serve customers, he said.

It's the first phase of change envisioned by McCurley, who's been selling cars in the Tri-Cities since 1981. By expanding his business into three cities, he's positioning himself for long-term growth and developing the McCurley brand, he said.

His next step is to remodel the old Honda location for an upscale Mercedes Benz dealership and ultimately to have a Cadillac showroom at the spot currently held by Mercedes cars at the Pasco Autoplex.

The new Honda location will allow room to carry more inventory, he said. The business plans to have about 125 new Hondas on the lot. "That's our objective, but it depends on the supply from the company," McCurley said.

There also will be about 150 to 170 used vehicles, including certified Hondas.

And about 20 more employees will be hired at the Honda dealership for a total of 60.

While Tri-City auto sales have been good, McCurley hopes his "volume pricing philosophy" will help reverse the trend of people leaving town to buy vehicles, and also bring in more buyers from throughout the region.

"We doubled our sales of Honda since we bought the store last spring," he said. He expects new Honda car sales will increase 20 percent this year, and all Tri-City new vehicle sales will grow 5 percent.

State reports show taxable retail sales of new and used vehicles in Benton County increased from about $46 million in the third quarter of 2008 to more than $52 million in the third quarter of last year.

In Franklin County, it dropped from about $30.6 million to $25.5 million.

The dealership's move means an estimated $20,000 more a month in new taxes for the city of Richland.

It was much anticipated, said Gary Ballew, Richland's business and economic development manager.

"We were working with McCurley to help them get in quickly," he said. "It's a woohoo gain for the city."

Kennewick hasn't looked at how much revenue it might lose, said City Manager Bob Hammond. "I really don't know what to expect."

He said McCurley's plans to eventually move the Mercedes dealership to Kennewick will help.