CarMax's new Chattanooga dealership opening this week is the first of its 108 stores nationwide built to be green as the company seeks to fit the city's environmental reputation.
"We'll be introducing a lot of technology," said Richard Buscher, general manager of the dealership that's pursuing the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design badge.
CarMax Chief Executive Officer Thomas J. Folliard is expected to be here Wednesday when the nation's largest used-car retailer enters the Chattanooga market.
CarMax's aim is to offer customers the opportunity to shop for vehicles the same way they do for items at other so-called big box stores, according to the retailer.
Buscher said Richmond, Va.-based CarMax officials like Chattanooga's central location between Atlanta, Nashville and Knoxville.
Big boxiness and online
At Shallowford Road and Interstate 75 at the site of the former Overnite trucking terminal, the high-profile store will have about 270 vehicles on hand, he said. The typical CarMax store turns over its inventory eight times a year.
Buscher said CarMax offers customers a no-haggle pricing sales environment.
"We take the games out of buying a vehicle," he said, adding that all of its sales associates will be equipped with iPads.
The dealership makes computer terminals available so customers can view Carmax's nationwide inventory online. For a fee, CarMax can transport any one of 30,000 vehicles from another site to Chattanooga, Buscher said.
In addition, customers can look up on self-serve kiosks an appraisal on a vehicle they wish to trade, he said.
"It's designed to enhance the customer experience," said the 42-year-old Buscher, who began with CarMax eight years ago in Nashville.
While some CarMax stores sell new vehicles, the Chattanooga unit will focus on late-model used cars and trucks. CarMax dealerships offer an array of makes aimed to meet customers' needs, Buscher said.
The dealership's arrival is seen by other car dealers in the city as keen competition, though they said they welcome it.
"I'm thrilled they're coming," said Phil Minor, general sales manager for Crown Chrysler Jeep Dodge.
He said CarMax tends to advertise, and its no-haggle approach will turn some people off.
"Somebody who wants to get into a regular car-buying environment instead, they'll send a lot of customers our way," Minor said.
Todd Dyer, general manager of Marshal Mize Ford, said any new dealership is competition even if it sells just used vehicles.
But he said he's not worried about competition.
"We're blessed to have been in business for 30 years," Dyer said, adding Marshal Mize is the largest Ford store in Tennessee.
The CarMax dealership has a large service area, and each car or truck undergoes an extensive check, Buscher said. He said that, on average, CarMax spends about 12 hours reconditioning a vehicle.
CarMax performs routine maintenance on vehicles it has sold and on others as well, the dealership's general manager said.
It has Wi-Fi in its waiting area and offers easy-reach outlets for electronic equipment, he said.
CarMax is the latest business to seek LEED certification for a new building in Chattanooga. In just the past two months, the new general aviation terminal at Chattanooga's airport and Chattanooga's Volkswagen auto assembly plant both won LEED Platinumin certfication, the highest level given by the U.S. Green Building Council.