Jim Evans drops Volvo franchise, focuses on Volkswagen and other brands

Jim Evans, president of Evans Motorworks, in a 2015 file photo.
Jim Evans, president of Evans Motorworks, in a 2015 file photo.

Credit: MARK FISHER/STAFF

Credit: MARK FISHER/STAFF

The last 15 months have been a time of change for the auto industry. It’s no different locally, with Jim Evans focusing the future of his local dealerships on Volkswagen and BMW after selling his Volvo franchise back to Volvo, effective June 1.

The decision was more than a year in the making.

“The volume of the brand in the Dayton market is very small,” Evans said in an interview Tuesday. “We were averaging less than 10 units a month.”

The owner of Evans Motorworks, Infiniti of Dayton and Arena Chrysler Dodge Jeep Ram has high praise for the quality and design work behind Volvo.

Evans Motorworks showroom at 7124 Poe Ave.
Evans Motorworks showroom at 7124 Poe Ave.

“The challenge of it is, return on investment really isn’t there,” the longtime Dayton auto dealer said. “The amount of complexity it added to that site (7124 Poe Ave.), which already has BMW and Volkswagen on it, really had us looking at the viable future.”

The future meant a parting. Volvo itself was focusing on larger metropolitan areas, particularly with its shift to fully electric production and sales. (The automaker has pledged to go electric by 2030.)

Though it was clear that Volvo was not looking to keep a sales point in the Dayton market, Evans said he initiated conversations with the automaker. “They agreed,” he said. “They are actually consolidating smaller markets around the country.”

For now, the focus at Evans Dealer Group is a familiar array of brands: BMW, Volkswagen and the Jeep and Chrysler dealership near what was Hara Arena in Trotwood. (The landmark of the arena has now been demolished, two years after the Memorial Day tornadoes that ripped the building apart.)

BMW and Volkswagen are “exploding for us right now,” said Evans, famously the self-proclaimed “dealer for the people” in his advertising spots.

He maintains that it’s a great time in the auto industry, even with the well known microchip shortage plaguing some many automakers and slowing production nearly everywhere.

But even with that, BMW and Volkswagen sales are beating not only 2020 so far, but even 2019, he said.

“We are facing right now a severe shortage of vehicles, as pretty much every franchise is,” he said.

The principal challenge facing dealers right now is lack of units. Automakers are taking different tacks in responding to the problem. VW has found its plants in Mexico and Chattanooga have been “severely hit” by the issue, Evans said.

One outcome: the amount of Evans’ used car business has nearly doubled.

Evans has nearly seen it all in the auto business. He is a third-generation car dealer who in the mid-1990s tried to retire from the industry. Evans — whose grandfather started a car dealership in the Miami area in 1927 — sold his family’s Florida dealerships in 1998 to AutoNation, then served as a vice president for the company for seven years.

In 2005, Evans left AutoNation. He started investigating opportunities to get back into the business, and acquired his first Dayton-area dealerships in 2007.

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