Bucking the trend by opening a car dealership

At a time when American automakers are severing ties with nearly 2,000 dealers, it might seem crazy to invest $14 million in building a new dealership.

But Kevin Collins has ridden out several bad economies in his 30-plus years in the car business. And he doesn't doubt his decision to move his Bill Collins Ford dealership, named for his father, from its location near Fayette Mall to Brannon Crossing in Jessamine County.

"Even in very difficult times, there is always opportunity, and that's how we look at it," he said. "We're rolling the dice, but we feel like it's a reasonable bet."

In another sign of his optimism, Collins even expanded the dealership's brands last year by snapping up the Lincoln and Mercury brands when Green's Toyota in Lexington gave them up to expand its space for Toyota models.

Ford so far has not taken any government loans, avoiding the peril of General Motors as well as Chrysler, which is operating under bankruptcy protection. Both GM and Chrysler announced dealer cutbacks this week.

Sales associate Byron Evans said Friday that several customers have said they're switching to Ford because of its decision to not take bailout money.

The automaker's strength compared to its rivals had Bob and Carol Sparks of Carlisle checking out Lincolns on the lot on Friday. The couple have driven GM vehicles for more than 30 years.

The move to the new facility began more than three years ago when Collins' company bought the dealership, expanding outside its Louisville base, where it sells Fords, Lincolns, Mercurys and Nissans.

He told Ford he was convinced the dealership needed to move to a new site with more land. At its leased location near Fayette Mall, customers had to drive a quarter of a mile from the sales lot to the service area.

The new location in Brannon Crossing, all 10.5 acres of it, opened five weeks ago, but the company will throw a grand opening ribbon-cutting ceremony on Tuesday.

The dealership has 58 employees but plans to hire another 20 to 25 during the next year.

Jack Kain, a longtime Ford dealer in Versailles, said Collins' move "speaks to how we dealers have a lot of faith in Ford Motor Co. and its present management."

"Here's a dealer that's going all out to buck the trend," he added, "in spite of everything that's bad around him."

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