Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Kia Dealer in Driver's Seat; but Sole Survivor Not Happy Losing Two Competitors

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Kia Dealer in Driver's Seat; but Sole Survivor Not Happy Losing Two Competitors

Article excerpt

Byline: KEVIN TURNER

With the failure of two Kia dealerships over the past year, only one remains in the entire Jacksonville metropolitan area.

But Robby Hogan, who with partner Mark Escude owns Kia of Orange Park at 6373 Blanding Blvd., said those closures don't spell opportunity for his dealership.

Former competitor Sam Kazran owned Premier Kia at the Avenues of Jacksonville and Premier Kia Atlantic before both closed because of defaulted Bank of America loans.

"The Premier story is a very unfortunate situation for Mr. Kazran," Hogan said. "It's not good for the brand. Anytime that happens, the public gets confused. They lump it together and think it's Kia."

Nathan Potratz, vice president of the Jacksonville Automotive Dealers Association, agreed.

"I'm sure that Kia would prefer the brand be better represented in Jacksonville. The closing of a dealership is never a positive public statement," he said.

And Adam Perlow, director of retail sales for Kia Motors America, said the company has reached that conclusion.

"Kia Motors America recognizes the opportunity in the Jacksonville market and is evaluating all opportunities to expand," Perlow said. "The Kia brand is growing dramatically right now and as a result of our sales growth and award-winning products, we are experiencing a dramatic influx of dealer interest in Jacksonville and other markets. As we expand and strengthen our existing dealer network, we are taking the steps to properly identify the best retailers for brand representation."

Hogan said his dealership, however, has been selling the low-priced South Korean vehicles well despite the recent economy.

Still, with the closing of the other dealerships, Kia of Orange Park has been getting phone calls from people wondering if that location also is in danger of closing.

Hogan said the store, which his group purchased last summer from former owner Ray Carter, just underwent an approximately $200,000 remodeling. …

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