Steamboat Springs Scott Cook's car dealership in Steamboat Springs is a rarity in Colorado, but he wouldn't be surprised if operations like his become more commonplace.
"Our agreement with GM is for a satellite dealership (in Steamboat)," Cook said. "Maybe we'll see more of them down the road because of the high cost of doing business in the recreation towns."
Cook Chevrolet, Olds-mobile, Jeep Subaru is based in Craig, but sells both new and used automobiles from an office and display lot on Steamboat's west side. The Steamboat location doesn't have a traditional showroom, nor does it have the service department typically attached to new car dealerships.
Now, Cook is taking the first steps toward building a showroom and expanded lot at the corner of U.S. Highway 40 and Curve Court, just a few hundred yards west of the business' present location.
"We still have a long way to go, but we want to continue doing what we're doing with a nice showroom and bigger inventory."
Cook Chevy's satellite lot in Steamboat offers some challenges in a mountain environment. Working in a market where a foot of snow could blanket the cars in the lot any time from October into May can be a distinct disadvantage.
"It's harder to sell cars when the customers can't see them," Cook said.
Cook sees the Yampa Valley continuing to grow and has been looking for a way to expand here for several years. His experience tells him that when Steamboat's economy is cooking and cars are selling at a brisk pace, Craig is often slow. The opposite also is true -- when Steamboat's tourism-based economy goes a little flat, Craig's energy-based economy takes up the slack.
About two years ago, he briefly looked into creating an auxiliary lot across the highway from his present location. He abandoned it as no more than a temporary solution.
Preliminary site plans for the new dealership, which Cook has submitted to the city of Steamboat Springs Planning Department, indicate he would like to build a 7,000-square-foot building for a showroom and offices adjacent to a car display lot with its only access off Curve Court. The site is immediately south of the Steamboat Pilot & Today building, on the opposite side of Curve Court.
Cook would like to base one service technician in Steamboat to perform basic repairs out of a handful of bays. However, his plan for the foreseeable future is to continue meeting the major service and repair needs of Steamboat customers out of his Craig facility at 1776 W. Victory Way.
Servicing both the Steamboat and Craig markets out of one repair facility offers some advantages, Cook said. He finds it easier to hire and retain service technicians in Craig because of the lower cost of living. It also saves him the need for costly duplication of employees, inventory and equipment that would be necessary with a major repair facility in both cities.
"It's a major jump from having a technician over there," to a full repair garage, Cook said.
Locating the major repair facility 42 miles from Steamboat also carries a cost. For Steamboat customers who purchased their vehicles from Cook, the dealership uses its own drivers to shuttle customers' cars back and forth. The dealership's insurance carrier discourages it from shuttling cars on behalf of service customers who didn't originally purchase their cars or trucks from Cook.
The availability of a few service bays in Steamboat would give the dealership the ability to melt the snow off a few cars overnight, Cook said.
The ability to have a greater inventory of cars, and more flexibility in displaying them is vital, Cook said.
"It's amazing what sells cars," Cook said. "One of the biggest things is people being able to see cars."
It's not unheard of for a vehicle to sit on the lot for months without attracting much interest, only to have the manager move it to the front row of the lot, generating three potential buyers within a day. Some dealers swear there are hot spots on their display lot that move cars faster than other spot, Cook said. He doesn't place much credence in that belief, but he is certain that simply shuffling cars to fresh spots in the lot can generate sales.
He also is contemplating constructing a slightly elevated ramp on the Curve Court side of the new site that would draw attention to a handful of vehicles.
Cook Chevy uses the proximity of its two lots in Craig and Steamboat to move cars back and forth and enhance the perception of fresh inventory on the lot.
Cook's project is in the earliest stages of the city planning process. No public hearings on the matter have been scheduled.
Cook Chevy has a total of 35 employees in Craig and Steam-boat.
Cook is also confident that if he succeeds in building a new showroom in Steamboat, it will help motivate his sales team.
"I think they are excited," he said. "It's a lot easier to sell from a whole basket than half a basket."
-- To reach Tom Ross call 871-4205 or