Westside Hyundai Grand Opening article on Jacksonville.Com


Special to Drive

The heavy rain dumped by Tropical Storm Debby didn't stop the Hanania Automotive Group from staging a festive grand opening of Westside Hyundai Monday night.

The celebrated official opening of the latest Hanania family facility was highlighted by a ribbon-cutting ceremony led by owner and president Jack Hanania and featured a five-piece band, catered reception and a red carpet welcome for guests.

 "Hyundai said there is a great market on Cassat and we went from there," Hanania said. "We had first right of refusal on it and it made perfect sense to be here on Cassat."

The project, Hanania said, started about three years ago. He purchased the property in December of last year, began renovations and actually opened for business in January.

Westside Hyundai is the Hanania Automotive Group's seventh dealership on the First Coast and the first not located on Blanding Boulevard. Hanania's other dealerships include Hyundai of Orange Park, Volkswagen of Orange Park, Acura of Orange Park, Audi Jacksonville, Orange Park Mitsubishi and Fiat of Orange Park. The latter dealership received its initial shipments of cars late last month and will hold a grand opening on Aug. 23.

As for Westside Hyundai, Hanania said business has been good since opening in January.

"February did real well as it started picking up; March was good and April and May have been fantastic," Hanania said.

He and General Manager Pete Holmquist will try to exceed the sales prowess the site showed when Westside Dodge owned it.

"They were selling 500 cars a month out of this store," Holmquist said. "It's sized and big, has good visibility and a huge service department with 24 bays that can take care of all kinds of customers."

Those customers are higher-end on the credit and educational level, according to Holmquist.

"The people who have been with Hyundai are seeing the Hyundai consumer has over a 680 credit score; they are college educated; they're Lexus, Audi, Toyota buyers," Holmquist said. "If you look at the credit and education of the customers, we're getting the kind of customers they are."

Hyundai has come out with 13 model changes or lineups for this year alone, Holmquist noted.

"They are continuing to stay one step ahead in the car industry, and they are proving it," he said. "Look at the models, look at what we have; the warranty, the safety and value is unsurpassed."

The plan, Holmquist said, is to have between 150 and 170 new Hyundais on hand along with 50 to 70 pre-owned vehicles. The convenient location should help keep inventory moving.

"The brand is great, and people from the Northside will come to Cassat Avenue," Hanania said. "This, of course, is the Westside, so we named it Westside Hyundai for the location and we are getting more [brand] awareness on this side of town. It also has really helped out the Orange Park (Hyundai) location with brand awareness."

Hyundai's lineup is indicative of the South Korean automaker's complete turnaround. It has a vehicle for nearly every segment, including the economical Accent subcompact; the popular Elantra compact; the midsize Sonata (also available as a hybrid) and redesigned Azera sedans; sporty Genesis and Veloster coupes; and a couple of stylish SUVs - the Tucson and Santa Fe, the latter getting a totally new look for 2013.

Hyundai also has expanded into the entry-level and premium-level luxury sedan markets with its Genesis and Equus sedans.

In addition to this week's grand opening, Hanania reaffirmed his business's commitment to the fight against childhood cancer. The initiative, which is supported by Hyundai and its dealers, began as a local project in 1998. It since has evolved into an independent nonprofit organization with more than $14 million donated. Each time a new Hyundai is sold in the United States, $5 is donated to Hope on Wheels.

The new Westside Hyundai also will support the Nemours Children's Clinic locally. Hanania said North Florida Hyundai dealers contributed more than $700,000 to the clinic last year.

Sales hours for Westside Hyundai are 9-9 Monday-Saturday and noon until 6 p.m. on Sunday. The service and parts department is open 7-7 Monday-Friday, 8 a.m. until 4 p.m. on Saturday. The company website is westsidehyundai.com.

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