Work on a new Volkswagen dealership in Niagara County is about to get into gear.
Construction crews this week will begin tearing down part of a vacant former Toyota dealership in Lockport, as the project moves forward, said Michael Basil, the dealership’s principal. Toyota previously moved to a new location next door.
The initial plan was for the new Basil Volks-wagen dealership – which will become the region’s fourth Volkswagen dealer – to join Lockport’s “automotive row” this summer. But Basil said the design process took longer than anticipated. “They say how well-engineered the Volkswagen cars are; their buildings are done the same way,” he said.
Under the $4 million project, the 35,000- square-foot full-service dealership will be built to the specifications of the automaker’s new “White Frame” design, which prominently displays vehicles at the front of the complex.
Part of the old Toyota dealership at 6179 S. Transit Road will be torn down starting Thursday, Basil said. Meanwhile, about one-third of the building will be gutted and refurbished, while the lifts and service area will kept much as they are now. Basil said the new dealership is expected to open in June or July.
The Basil Volkswagen project is getting underway at a time of transition for the automaker’s brand. Volkswagen has named Michael Horn, a native of Germany, as the new chief executive officer of Volks-wagen Group of America, effective Jan. 1.
Germany-based Volkswagen has set lofty sales goals for the U.S. and global markets. It wants to be the leader in global sales by 2018, with a target of selling 800,000 vehicles a year in the United States by that same year. But the brand’s U.S. sales have slumped this year after building momentum in the previous two years.
Basil said he feels confident the brand’s sales will improve next year. “When you see the new product that’s coming, I think it’s going to turn around very quickly,” he said.
Basil Volkswagen is aiming to sell 500 new vehicles and 400 used vehicles in its first full year of business, while starting out with about 25 employees.
Through October, the region’s three existing Volkswagen dealerships had sold 1,213 new units, down about 10 percent from the same 10-month period the year before, according to Niagara Frontier Automobile Dealers Association data.