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Staff Photo by Dan Henry / The Chattanooga Times Free Press- 12/7/16. The new Tim Short Mazda dealer is opening soon off of 6015 International Drive.
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Staff Photo by Dan Henry / The Chattanooga Times Free Press- 12/7/16. The new Tim Short Mazda dealer is opening soon off of 6015 International Drive.

Chattanooga's sole Mazda dealership is in new hands.

The soon-to-open business is Tim Short Mazda, which has moved into a building at 6015 International Drive that fronts Highway 153 in Chattanooga's "auto row."

Tim Short is the owner of a chain of 16 car dealerships in Kentucky, Tennessee and West Virginia. Tim Short Mazda has two co-owners: Brian Redmond, who also co-owns a Ford dealership with Short in LaFollette, Tenn., and Todd Rea, who's the general manager of the new Mazda dealership.

The trio bought the Chattanooga Mazda franchise from Edd Kirby's Adventure dealership on West Martin Luther King Drive, which is now strictly a Mitsubishi dealer.

Kirby says Mazda is a great brand, but he sold the franchise because the Japanese automaker didn't want him to sell Mitsubishis, a less-popular Japanese franchise he bought in a hurry from Tim Kelly, a Chattanooga Subaru dealer who wasn't selling many Mitsubishis and was going to give the franchise back.

"It didn't fit his business model, so we found out he was getting ready to give it back, just literally give it back to the factory, and I'm called him literally two weeks before he was ready to give it back, and he sold me Mitsubishi," Kirby said. "I didn't have time to get permission from Mazda to add Mitsubishi."

"Mazda was unhappy that I added Mitsubishi," he said. "We got into an argument about it."

So Kirby decided he wanted to sell Mazda. He said Tim Short heard about it because Kirby and Short use the same accountant.

Rea also alerted Short about the Chattanooga Mazda franchise's availability.

"I had heard that Mr. Kirby wanted to sell the franchise, so Mr. Short and I spoke with him and thought it would be a great addition,"Rea said

Rea moved to the Chattanooga area two years ago to be the general manager for the Dealer's Auto Auction of Chattanooga, a job he gave up to co-own the near dealership. Rea, who's from Jackson, Miss., grew up working in his family's auto auction business there.

The change of hands of Chattanooga's Mazda franchise has been a while in the making — Mazda signs came down at Kirby's weeks ago and went up at Tim Short's, Tim Short has been hiring and already registered with the Better Business Bureau. But it wasn't until last week that the transfer got the final blessing from Mazda's corporate office, Rea said.

Tim Short Mazda's goal is to sell around 150 cars a month, Rea said, with a split of 50 new cars and 100 used ones.

The visibility from Highway 153 should help attract customers, Rea said.

"There is a lot of traffic on Highway 153," he said.

The new Mazda dealership is housed in leased space that formerly held C&C Motors, a used truck dealership that has moved around the corner at 2114 Chapman Road behind Integrity Chevrolet.

Mitsubishis ideal for 'solution buyers'

Kirby is happy to be selling Mitsubishis, which he said is a value brand with good rebates and a five-year warranty to which he adds a lifetime powertrain warranty.

Mitsubishi is a brand that appeals to what Kirby called "solution buyers."

"They just need a solution: How to get out of this undependable car and into a nicer, newer car," he said.

Such buyers often have credit problems or other issues that make them think they'll only be able to afford a nicer used car. They're thrilled to find out they can buy a new Mitsubishi, Kirby said.

"They cry, they hug us,"Kirby said. "We can put them all the way into a brand-new car with a five-year warranty and we give a lifetime powertrain warranty. They leave with a brand-new Mitsubishi."

Edd Kirby's Mitsubishi has a goal of selling 40 new Mitsubishis per month, Kirby said, which would put it in the top 50 nationally for Mitsubishi dealers.

The dealership sells the Mitsubishi Mirage, the G4, the Outlander and the Outlander S.

"We've only got four cars to sell. With Mitsubishi, you're not selling in every segment," Kirby said. "Within those segments, they do well."

Kirby is excited that Mitsubishi recently came under control of Renault-Nissan Alliance Chairman and CEO Carlos Ghosn, the dynamic auto executive who restructured Renault and saved Nissan from near bankruptcy.

"Now that we've got just Mitsubishi, we're very happy that one of the very best automotive executives is running it.," Kirby said.

Contact staff writer Tim Omarzu at tomarzu@timesfreepress.com or www.facebook.com/MeetsForBusiness or twitter.com/meetforbusiness or 423-757-6651.

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