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Staff photo by Mike Pare / Mountain View Chrysler Dodge Jeep Ram's new Ringgold, Georgia, dealership has more than 400 vehicles on its lot, officials said.
Jeep and Ram are the volume models.
some text Staff photo by Mike Pare / Mountain View Chrysler Dodge Jeep Ram is a new $10 million dealership located at 6276 Alabama Highway in Ringgold, Georgia.

RINGGOLD, Ga. —Mountain View Auto Group on Tuesday officially opened a new Chrysler Dodge Jeep Ram dealership here, which is its third store in Northwest Georgia.

"It's another stepping stone. It expands our footprint," said Don Thomas, managing partner of the Chattanooga-based group, noting it wasn't even in Georgia until 2014.

The $10 million dealership at 6276 Alabama Highway sits on a 7-acre tract with more than 400 new and used vehicles, he said.

The 34,000-square-foot facility employs about 48 people, Thomas said, and he expects sales to hit between 150 to 200 vehicles a month.

Austin Watson, the group's operating partner, said officials have learned that people who live in North Georgia want to buy there as well.

He said many of the group's employees go to church or have children attending school with its customers.

"Ringgold has a small-town feel," Watson said.

Mountain View bought the Chrysler dealership in Ringgold in 2014 from the Robbins family, which had operated the store at its Nashville Street location near downtown for many years.

In that space, Mountain View has opened a Hyundai dealership. Mountain View had acquired Pye Hyundai earlier in Dalton, Ga., and officials decided to relocate it to Ringgold.

In 2016, Mountain View also bought the Pye Nissan inventory in Dalton. In a multimillion-dollar effort, Mountain View remodeled the former Sale Auto Mall into a new 55,000-square-foot dealership near Walnut Square Mall to hold its Nissan store there.

Thomas said officials expect to sell a lot of Jeep and Ram vehicles at its new Chrysler facility in Ringgold.

"Jeep and Ram are the volume models," he said, noting that many auto buyers are shifting to SUVs and trucks.

Thomas expects Mountain View's new Hyundai store in Ringgold to sell a lot of sedans, adding that the South Korean automaker is strong in that segment.

He said the Chrysler dealership is "state of the art," offering the latest in sales and service. The store has its own marketing department, which Thomas said acts as a business development center. That frees up sales people to work with customers and not worry about taking phone calls, he said.

"We want our sales representatives to deal face to face with customers," Thomas said. All of the dealership's sales people use computer tablets so they're not harnessed to a desk, he said.

The dealership's service department, which is air-conditioned, has equipment which Thomas termed "the latest and the greatest."

Adjacent to the Chrysler showroom is a 6-acre vacant tract that could hold a future expansion or another dealership, he said.

The auto group goes back to 1981 when C. Austin Watson, grandfather of cousins Clay Watson and Austin Watson, bought a Ford dealership. After tackling the venture alone for several years, his two sons, Don and David, along with nephew Andy Watson, joined him to run and help grow the business.

Together, they later acquired the downtown Chattanooga Nissan store in 1988 and then in 1999 purchased a site on Chapman Road for the used car dealership known as Mtn View @ 153.

In 2006, the group bought the Lincoln franchise, and then in 2007 the Chevrolet dealership from Newton Chevrolet.

Thomas married Austin Watson's sister and entered the business after conversations with Austin's father, Don.

Mountain View also owns Pandora's European Motorsports on Highway 58, which sells motorcycles and all-terrain vehicles.

Contact Mike Pare at mpare@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6318. Follow him on Twitter @MikePareTFP.

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