published Saturday, April 20th, 2013

Furrow Automotive takes over car brand from Tim Kelly

Businessman Tim Kelly has sold his Chattanooga Infiniti dealership to Furrow Automotive, the Knoxville-based company that also owns Jaguar Land Rover Porsche of Chattanooga.

Employees on Friday worked to transfer cars from Kelly's former Chapman Road location to Infiniti's new Chattanooga home among the Furrow family's other luxury brands at 7648 Lee Highway.

"Infiniti wanted a new location that we weren't able to do at the Chapman Road location," Kelly said. "The buyers will be able to put it in there with Porsche and Land Rover, which allows them to rationalize the costs in a much better way than we could have done. Frankly, in a market like this it's difficult to make a true, standalone dealership like that work."

Kelly will retain his downtown Subaru dealership and the Kelly Collision Center on Riverfront Parkway, as well as Southern Honda Powersports on Workman Road. Kelly also is an investor in Carclips, which is an automotive startup company designed to make buying and selling cars easier, and owns the property on which Sofa King Juicy Burger is located.

As part of its government-supervised bankruptcy, GM yanked Kelly's Cadillac and GMC brands in 2010 after shutting down his Hummer and Saab brands, rendering his Chapman Road facility -- which he had specifically built to house the GM brands -- nearly empty.

Former Saturn and now full-line GM dealer Brent Morgan will occupy Kelly's former 2110 Chapman Road dealership as Integrity Chevrolet, thanks to Chevy's decision to add back the second Chattanooga location it had pulled from long-time dealer Herb Adcox.

Infiniti will boast its own unique Chattanooga building by April 2014, though Lee Ann Furrow Tolsma, co-owner of Furrow Automotive, declined to say how much it would cost.

"It's a significant investment," she said. "We'll begin construction within the next month on the new building, right there on the same property."

She expects to have 69 Infiniti vehicles on sale today, which will start to rise to 100 by May. Eight of Kelly's employees have agreed to stay on, a headcount that could rise as high as 15 after the dealership gets its sea legs, she said.

"Our goal is to sell 30 to 35 new cars per month to start, and we are probably going to sell between 30 and 50 pre-owned per month," she said.

The new location, visible from Interstate 75 and located near one of the fastest-growing areas in Chattanooga area, gives Tolsma confidence in Infiniti's future. Luxury vehicles, which didn't sell well in the early days of 2008 and 2009, are in demand again, and Chattanooga General Manager James Vandermerwe is "raring to go," she said.

"It's a strong market, that's why we decided to invest in it," she said.

Contact staff writer Ellis Smith at esmith@timesfree or 423-757-6315.

about Ellis Smith...

Ellis Smith joined the Chattanooga Times Free Press in January 2010 as a business reporter. His beat includes the flooring industry, Chattem, Unum, Krystal, the automobile market, real estate and technology. Ellis is from Marietta, Ga., and has a bachelor’s degree in mass communication at the University of West Georgia. He previously worked at UTV-13 News, Carrollton, Ga., as a producer; at the The West Georgian, Carrollton, Ga., as editor; and at the Times-Georgian, Carrollton, ...

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