$2.5 million standalone Audi dealership planned in Richland
Town & Country to build facility on Aaron Drive
Ralph Martinez built a large car dealership empire in the Portland area, but he always had his eye on the Tri-Cities.
So two years ago, Martinez and his Town & Country dealership bought the Tri-Cities BMW dealership from Tim Bush.
“My wife and I have a home here,” he said. “We love it here. It’s a nice pace. A lot more conservative here.”
Last month, Martinez bought the Tri-City Audi dealership through a broker. Audi, which had been part of Overturf Motors in Kennewick, wanted its own stand-alone building.
Martinez plans to build the estimated $2.5 million building for the Audi line of vehicles with construction beginning in 2018.
When Overturf Motors’ Doug Overturf decided to sell the Audi line, Martinez moved fast.
“Recently, this opportunity came to our attention. We’ve had the cars since the first of the month (April). It’s finally closed,” said Martinez, who said he couldn’t disclose the purchase price.
Martinez set up a temporary home for the Audi inventory at the old Budget Rent-A-Car location on Aaron Drive, near Beaver Bark, in Richland. Martinez’s BMW lot is just a few hundred yards up the road.
“The current facility that houses Audi is temporary,” said Martinez. “That lot is approximately four acres. We own two lots west of the BMW dealership, and that is where the new Audi center will be located.”
The temporary Audi building will eventually house his dealership’s used car and truck Super Center for sales and service. Eventually, everything will be renamed Town & Country Auto Center.
“My goal is quite simple,” said Martinez. “We want to provide all our clients the best purchasing and customer service available anywhere. Whether you purchase a $6,000 vehicle or a $150,000 vehicle, it really doesn’t matter.
“We will deliver quality value and excellence. Therefore, we will build a state-of-art Audi facility for our clients, and we will also start a freshening up redecoration at BMW this summer. We also use the latest technology to assure our pricing is on target for our clients.”
Martinez at one time had 17 different brands at various lots around the Portland area.
“But I talked to the family, and we decided to cut back,” he said. “So we started divesting some of the brands. Now we have one store in Portland. I’m semi-retired. I’ll help my sons out to get them up and running.”
Carlos, 33, runs the company’s Honda store in Portland.
Christopher, 30, will run the Tri-Cities dealerships.
This wasn’t the first time Martinez tried getting into the Tri-Cities.
“I’ve looked at the Tri-Cities for many years. We looked at Michael Shumate’s Honda dealership, but we didn’t get it,” he said.
Now, with BMW sales increasing in the last two years, his expectations of the same thing happening with Audi and increase in the number of employees – “We’ve hired more people. We’re up to 70, 75 people. We’ve almost doubled our staff in the last year” – the future is looking bright at Town & Country.
“The Tri-Cities is a growing market,” he said. “Our brand is a strong brand. It enables us not to have to sell zillions of cars (like we did in Portland). We value our relationships with our customers. We’re enjoying our clientele. It’s more personal and very rewarding.”
Overturf planning to expand in Kennewick
Doug Overturf said his car dealership isn’t going anywhere.
“Overturf has been in the Tri-Cities since 1962, and we’ve been at this location (1016 W. Columbia Drive in Kennewick) since 1987,” he said. “We’re not going to downsize. Part of the reason I sold Audi was to make room for more of our other cars.”
The plan is to expand the Volkswagen and Kia lines.
“And we’re going to redo the facility to go with the new corporate image,” said Overturf, who was scheduled to meet with Volkswagen corporate officials late last month. “I’ll tell them what I want to do, then they’ll tell me what they want me to do. Corporate has image guidelines. They’ll want us to adhere to them.”
Overturf said Audi was pushing hard for a stand-alone building.
“I would have done it,” he said. “I had been talking to the city of Pasco and looking at property in Kennewick. But I wasn’t able to get Audi to work with us. They didn’t want to work with us at all. They had their ideas. I had my ideas.
“So I just felt it was time to sell.”
Overturf has no plans to add another line of cars. He also doesn’t expect anyone to lose their jobs.
Overturf said the goal to remodel his facilities is in the planning stages.
“I don’t know when we’ll start, but we will,” he said. “It will have to be approved by corporate.”