Two car dealerships in SLO County expand operations

Two local car dealerships have expanded, noting that auto sales have increased dramatically.

The owners of Mullahey Ford in Arroyo Grande have opened a second auto dealership in San Luis Obispo County— Mullahey Chrysler Dodge Jeep Ram, in Paso Robles.

And Smith Volvo has opened a dedicated showroom for new car delivery in San Luis Obispo.

Here’s a closer look:

Mullahey Chrysler Dodge Jeep Ram

Located at 2520 Golden Hill Road, the dealership has been open for sales and automotive servicing for less than two weeks.

“We are just getting our feet under us,” said Mike Mullahey, who owns the business with his brother, Tim Mullahey.

Until renovations are completed on the showroom, the site’s business operations are being run out of two trailers on the property.

The auto industry was hit hard in the aftermath of the financial collapse in 2008, and a series of closures left northern San Luis Obispo County without Chrysler, Dodge, or Jeep dealerships.

“In 2008, it was like the spigot turned off,” Mullahey said about auto sales. “But it’s back, and it’s growing. There’s a lot of pent-up demand.”

Mullahey decided to enter the North County market when a Chrysler representative offered him the opportunity to open a Paso Robles dealership. It is part of Chrysler’s plan to expand back into underrepresented markets, Mullahey said.

When finished, the combined space of the showroom and service center will be 23,000 square feet. The dealership takes up approximately 6 acres. The lot will hold about 275 cars.

Mullahey currently has 16 employees at the Paso Robles location, a number he expects to more than double as operations develop.

The brothers employ around 55 at their Arroyo Grande location, which has been open since 1993.

Mullahey estimated the cost of the building and renovation of his Paso Robles location at upwards of $5 million.

Smith Volvo

The San Luis Obispo dealership opened its delivery showroom at Monterey and Pepper streets on April 1, said general manager Mark Descamps. The lot had been previously occupied by Chrysler Fiat.

"What we'll have is a newer facility that was updated three years ago, with handicapped accessible bathrooms, air conditioning and heating," Descamps said. "It will make the buying experience better for the customer."

Volvo has reinvested about $12 billion into the company and has about seven new products that it will roll out over the next several years, Descamps said. He views Smith Volvo's upgrade to a new facility as part of that overall growth plan.

"We're invested in our future," he said, noting that sales at the dealership are up about 400 percent over the last three years.

Smith Volvo is retaining its lot at 1219 Monterey St., selling pre-owned vehicles and providing vehicle service there. Upgrades to that property are also planned, Descamps said.