A Carson City consultant is looking for as much as 80 acres on which to gather the capital's automobile dealerships into an "auto mall."
In an effort to keep crucial sales-tax dollars from slipping away, Carson City government and local new-car dealers split the $18,000 bill for a California consultant to study a site and economic feasibility of an auto mall. The auto mall would allow dealers to share space on a large piece of property.
"It would give customers a convenient place to shop for all makes and models under one roof," said Stephen Christian, general manager of Carson Dodge Chrysler. "You know when you go shopping for Christmas, how convenient it is to go to a mall? If you're not sure if you want a Dodge, a Toyota or a Honda, we'll all be lined up side by side."
Auto sales contributes more sales taxes to city coffers than any other industry in the capital. Of $16.6 million in sales taxes collected in the 2000/2001 fiscal year, about $4.3 million, 26 percent, came from auto sales.
Auto sales contribute $480,000 to both the city's Quality of Life and road maintenance funds.
The auto mall idea was advanced by city officials, City Manager John Berkich said.
"We have an interest in protecting and growing (auto sales tax revenue)," he said.
There is always a threat looming with Carson City's constrained space that car dealers could leave, Berkich said. His message has been to "maintain Carson City's position as the commercial hub" of the region, and that includes keeping auto dealers.
Because the idea is still conceptual, he wouldn't discuss potential sites for the auto mall. Christian said an auto mall would need between 75 and 80 acres to accommodate Carson's dealers and give them room to expand. While there is no commitment from dealers to move to an auto mall, Christian said the concept would benefit the dealers, city and auto customers.
"This is primarily for the convenience of the customers," Christian said. "If it's more convenient, we will have more people shopping."
More people shopping equals more sales tax dollars for the city.
Also, dealers relocating to a new location would free up prime commercial space mostly on South Carson Street, the capital's current hub of commercial development.
Both Berkich and Christian said construction of an auto mall, if it is feasible, would be years down the road. Consultant William Carlson of Sacramento-based XR&D Automotive Development Strategies, is under contract until Dec. 31, although Berkich expects the study to be completed in the next 30 to 60 days.