Joe Davis was confident in 2009 when he moved his Swainsboro Chrysler dealership to Statesboro that it was the right business decision.
Now, a little more than two years after opening Georgia Chrysler Jeep Dodge on Highway 301 South, Davis and his wife Heidi have shepherded the dealership through one of the toughest economic downturns in US history and are on track to exceed the $15 million in total sales Georgia Chrysler earned in 2010.
"I'm right where I thought we'd be," Davis said in his office Thursday. "I knew Statesboro was a strong market. I knew we could provide the type of product that would sell. I knew we would offer the kind of customer service and experience that would attract and keep buyers."
The dealership's success has created 25 jobs and Davis said he is looking at hiring five more employees in the coming weeks. Also, it is a large source of tax revenue for Statesboro and Bulloch County that had disappeared in 2008 when the Trapnell dealership shut down.
Davis attributes a lot of his success to the comeback of the US auto industry as a whole and Chrysler in particular.
"Chrysler has introduced 15 either new or reworked models in the past two years," Davis said. "They are vehicles people want and fit in with their lifestyle. Technology advancements have helped make engines and all systems run more efficiently. Interiors are much softer and appealing. I'm talking about all automakers, not just Chrysler."
Even with the price of gas at around $3.50 per gallon, Davis doesn't foresee a drastic drop in sales.
"Chrysler and all US automakers are much better positioned than in the past to deal with price spikes," he said. "Fuel efficiency is up on average about 25 percent in most models and vehicle maintenance costs are down. Unless we see much, much higher gas prices, I don't anticipate a big drop in sales."
Davis said he also senses a more optimistic outlook on the economy.
"There still are plenty of people hurting out there and the jobs situation needs to improve," he said. "But in general, it seems most people think we're bouncing back."
The dealership also looks quite a bit different from when Davis opened in February 2009. From adding more bays and lifts in the service department to redoing waiting rooms in both the service and showroom areas, Davis said he wants to make the customer experience as pleasant and smooth as possible. Wi-fi even is available in both waiting areas.
Davis said his dealership's philosophy for selling vehicles is simple:
"We'll do all we can to put a customer in the car they want. It's easy to get another car (back in the dealership). It's not easy to find a buyer."
James Healy can be reached at (912) 489-9402.