CLEVELAND, Tenn. - Chevy is coming back.
General Motors officials Wednesday joined Don Ledford Automotive Center partner and general manager Debbie Melton to announce the return of the brand after a two-year absence.
They also held a ceremonial groundbreaking in the parking lot to begin a $1.7 million construction project to enlarge and update the dealership that also carries Buick, GMC and Cadillac brands.
Just two years ago, community leaders signed petitions and appeared in YouTube messages asking General Motors to reconsider pulling its franchises from Cleveland. Ledford was one of several locations across the country where GM changed its mind. The local Chevrolet dealership, however, went out of business.
Now Chevrolet is doing better, said Kent Borrough, Tennessee and Alabama zone manager for Chevy. But, he said, the brand will remain at about 25 percent fewer dealerships than before the cuts.
"We stirred up a lot of news over the last six months. We appreciate your investment as taxpayers and we are doing the best we can to pay it back,'' Burrough said, referring to government loans to GM.
"All the things we wanted to do through bankruptcy, we are actually exceeding,'' he said.
Chevrolet cars and trucks will be back on the lot by early spring, Burrough said.
Melton said the new building will reflect what customers have wanted, too.
A Chevy showroom where the main building is now will connect to a Buick, GMC and Cadillac showroom.
In that connector, there will be a "new vehicle delivery area,'' Melton said.
"That's where, when you buy your new car, it's enclosed so you can learn all about the features and be out of the weather,'' Melton said.
Customers also wanted a service reception area on the front of the building, she said.
Melton is on the Women's Advisory Dealer Council for GM.
She said amenities designed for women are something the company will be addressing.
The service reception area here, she said, will include a quiet room where customers can get work done while they wait, she said. There also will be a TV room and a play area.
The dealership was built in 1981 by Don Ledford Sr. His daughter Melton is manager.
Ledford also has an Athens GM dealership, operated by Ledford and his son, Don Ledford II.
"The investment Debbie is making in her company, we are seeing that in dealerships across the country,'' said T.D. Hudgens, GM regional director for business operations.