Area’s biggest car dealer buys Larson ChevroletThe largest car dealership group north of the Twin Cities just got bigger, with its purchase of Larson Chevrolet in Superior.
By: Candace Renalls, Duluth News Tribune
The largest car dealership group north of the Twin Cities just got bigger, with its purchase of Larson Chevrolet in Superior.
The Evergreen Group, based in Duluth, completed the deal on Wednesday afternoon when General Motors signed off on the contract, said Brad Skytta, the group’s president.
The name of the longtime dealership at 1420 Ogden Ave. changes to Northland Chevrolet today.
The purchase brings the Evergreen Group’s total dealerships to 11, which includes Northstar Ford, Kia of Duluth and Benna Ford in Superior.
The purchase follows the group’s opening of Volkswagen of Duluth in April and its purchase a year ago of a Ford dealership and a Kia dealership in Madison.
“We’re trying to buy anything in our industry automotive-wise that makes economic sense and which fits our growth model,” said Skytta, the group’s principle partner with Terry Johnson.
With GM putting much of its resources into Chevrolet to make it its lead, volume brand and with Larson Chevrolet the only GM dealership in Superior, the purchase made sense, he said.
Another dealership also boosts the group’s volume, better leverages expenses and allows them to sell vehicles at lower costs, which, Skytta said, is vital.
Then there’s the timing.
Low interest rates coupled with a pent-up demand for new vehicles by consumers who put off big purchases during the recession make it a good time to be in the car business.
The Evergreen Group bought the dealership from the widow of longtime owner Ralph Kriesel of Edina, Minn., who died in October 2011. He had owned the dealership since 1954.
While the purchase was six months in the works, those involved assumed it would happen eventually.
Skytta said he and Johnson didn’t know Kriesel but had known Rolf Grimsrud, the longtime general manager, for 30 years.
“He’s always favored us to get it,” Skytta said. “He couldn’t make that decision because he wasn’t the owner. We’ve known the last four, five years that, as (Kriesel’s) health was declining, that something was going to happen.”
When the owner was ready to sell, the Evergreen Group was ready to buy, he said.
And that time had come.
Skytta declined to reveal the purchase price but said it includes Larson Chevrolet’s several million dollar inventory of new cars.
While the dealership’s name is changing, much else will remain the same.
“We think the store has done a remarkable job keeping their employees for many, many years, and we’re retaining everybody,” Skytta said. “It also had good customer loyalty and following for years. And we will do everything we can to keep it going.”
All the approximately 40 employees will stay on, including Grimsrud, a legend of sorts who’s been with the dealership since 1954 and general manager since 1982. He’ll assist new general manager Johnny Ringold, son of Pat Ringold, a minority partner at Benna Ford.
Skytta said they would be adding staff above and beyond current employees because they feel the store has a lot of growth potential in the next year or two.
The dealership has been operating for nearly 90 years, with annual revenues of $20 to $50 million, recent summaries show. It will continue to offer the entire Chevrolet lineup of new cars, trucks, SUVs, vans and crossovers, along with used cars and a parts and service department.