By Kevin Wilson: Freedom New Mexico
On Monday, General Motors filed for bankruptcy. Also on Monday, a Clovis Hyundai dealership opened shop.
Hamilton Hyundai opened its doors with about 10 employees on hand to sell a fleet of 30 vehicles. Gary Hamilton, owner of the new franchise on Mabry Drive, said he hopes those numbers will jump to about 17 employees and a fleet of 50 to 60 vehicles by the end of the month.
Hamilton, who owns eight other car dealerships in New Mexico and Texas, said he’s had his eye on the Hyundai brand for about three years.
“Hyundai traditionally will not put a franchise in a town smaller than 50,000 people,” Hamilton said. “I was hopeful that with the (personnel increase at) the (Cannon Air Force) base, and the general growth of Clovis and Portales and surrounding communities, we could convince Hyundai that we would be as good as a 50,000-population town.”
The Hyundai franchise Clovis received was purchased from a Hobbs dealership, Hamilton said, and the regional headquarters in Dallas has been extremely helpful in helping set up shop in Clovis.
Scott Mills, manager of Hamilton Hyundai, said he expected he would get a lot of traffic from military personnel at Cannon, because military personnel tend to do a lot of online shopping and the brand is attractive for its low sticker price and features.
“I feel this is a car that’s very popular with military people,” Mills said, “and we’re getting an influx of military people.”
But he said he’s also been getting interest from longtime residents who just want an additional car, or previous Hyundai owners who couldn’t get a new vehicle in the area.
Previously, the closest Hyundai dealer was in Lubbock.
“There are a lot of people who don’t know anything about Hyundai,” Mills said. “That’s our challenge right now.”
So far, the business has met early sales challenges. They’re still training new staff, Hamilton said, but they’ve sold eight vehicles and two more potential buyers are waiting on more stock to arrive.
Hamilton, who also owns GM dealerships, said the agricultural market is always likely to favor the “Big Three” of GM, Chrysler and Ford because they’re the only automakers producing three-quarter- and one-ton pickup trucks.
Unless something major happens, Hamilton said, those local dealers should stay open for business.
“Our concerns about GM filing for bankruptcy, it’s too premature to know how it affects us,” Hamilton said. “We did not get a letter; we’re going to keep our franchise.”