New Used Auto Dealer Drives Into Town
LaFontaine replaces former Nationwide Auto Exchange, opening used car lot.
The LaFontaine Group was seeking a larger presence in Hartland, and on Sept. 1 it opened up a used car location along Highland Road in an effort to do just that.
LaFontaine Auto is on a nearly five-acre site that previously housed a privately-owned used car business called Nationwide Auto Exchange. The new standalone store carries 90 percent domestic cars and as many as 200 vehicles will be maintained onsite at the used car dealer.
The Lafontaine Group sees the location as one that offers future growth potential for the company, which could eventually result in the development of new full-service dealership.
"If we wanted to put a new car franchise there we could because there is a lot of room," said LaFontaine Auto General Manager Ryan LaFontaine. "It's a strategic decision for us to have a presence in Hartland and the proximity to both M-59 and U.S. 23 is very advantageous."
Nancy Tappan, 45, of Highland, stopped by on Sunday when the site was closed because she liked that it was less congested than LaFontaine's larger dealerships near her home.
"We saw a couple of vehicles by the road and we'd thought we'd stop by and take a peek," she said. "You can drive by slow. You can see the inventory."
The used car location offers up to $5 million of used-car inventory, largely because of a growth in used car sales in recent years. LaFontaine Auto also heavily features trucks and SUVs.
There has been a growth in used car sales during the down economy, when many individuals have had difficulty in obtaining credit. These factors have pushed down the sales of leased new cars and added steam to the used car market.
"We have experienced a trend upward in both new and used car sales in recent months but used cars have been popular the last few years," LaFontaine said. "With all the dealership consolidations, leasing has not been as advantageous of an opportunity for many consumers, so there has been a shift among some to certified, pre-owned cars and trucks."
The median price of a used car at LaFontaine Auto in Hartland will range between $10,000 and $12,000, LaFontaine said. Sales Manager Mark Schuholz and Used Car Director Gordy Koenig are also involved in running the location. The used car location employs 10 professionals.
The LaFontaine Automotive Group has been owned and operated by Michael and Maureen LaFontaine for more than 25 years and remains a family-owned business. In early 1987, the family opened a used vehicle location in Highland.
By June 2008 LaFontaine moved its Buick Pontiac GMC Cadillac dealership down the road from Hartland to a 65,000-square-foot facility on 34 acres in Highland. That dealership is consistently rated as one of the highest-grossing Buick Pontiac GMC dealerships in the country and was the first Gold L.E.E.D Certified Dealership in the country for General Motors.
There is also a LaFontaine Pre-Owned Auto World at that Highland location adjacent to the Buick Pontiac GMC Cadillac dealership.
"We love the community here in eastern Livingston County and we want to have a presence here," LaFontaine said. "This is where much of my family lives and works."