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Heard on the Street: Zumbrota auto dealer to add second dealership

ZUMBROTA — Steve Johnson, owner of Zumbrota Ford, has the green light to build a second, $3 million dealership to bring Chrysler brands to Zumbrota.

Johnson announced the project in the recently expanded showroom of Zumbota Ford on Friday.

The plan is to create a full-service Zumbrota Chrysler, Jeep, Dodge and Ram dealership. He has been talking to Chrysler officials about the project for about six months.

"This is a fantastic thing for the community," he told a gathering of his 49 employees. "It's a big investment, but I think it's a very prudent investment."

The car maker has approved two potential three-acre sites in Zumbrota for the new dealership. Johnson said one of the parcels is across U.S. 52 in the Zumbrota Industrial Park.


"We expect to make a final decision (on the site) by Sept. 30," he said.

Johnson added that whatever decision is made, he would like to have good visibility and access from nearby U.S. 52. Moving across the highway to the industrial park could heat local competition by placing it near Grover Auto, a large Chevrolet dealership.

The hope is to start construction of the 15,000- to 16,000-square-foot, two-story dealership building yet this year.

"We'd like to have it open and operating within nine to 12 months," said Johnson.

The new dealership is anticipated to add 25 employees to Johnson's current workforce of 49.

Fiat Chrysler is trying to fill holes in its market coverage with new projects such as the one in Zumbrota. 

"Chrysler is right behind Ford in sales. It's a great growth market," said Johnson, the self-proclaimed "Dealer for the People."

The planned dealership will have four separate display areas for the different brands. A service center with eight vehicle bays also is in the plans. The lot should be capable of displaying an inventory of an estimated 80 to 100 new vehicles as well as 80 to 100 used ones.


The enthusiastic Johnson pointed out he expanded his Ford dealership in 2014 and this year, which has left them land-locked. This new project will allow them to spread out.

"While others are slowing, we're growing," he said with a grin.

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