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Pasco getting its first Mercedes-Benz dealership

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WESLEY CHAPEL — AutoNation, the country’s largest auto retailer, will open Pasco’s first Mercedes-Benz dealership by the end of the year.

Marc Cannon, senior vice president of the Fort Lauderdale-based corporation, said the company is acquiring permits now and plans to break ground this spring on a 45,000-square-foot dealership on State Road 56 at Interstate 75, making it the third new car dealership planned for Wesley Chapel this year.

Pasco auto magnate Scott Fink is building a new Chevrolet dealership on Wesley Chapel Boulevard and a Volkswagen dealership on the south side of State Road 56.

“The auto business in Florida is on fire,” Cannon said. “The economy is coming back in Florida. People are moving here, and the Tampa Bay marketplace is really reaping the benefit of that.”

AutoNation’s 228 stores reported selling nearly 300,000 new cars last year — its highest total sales since 2007. The company’s total new car sales were up 11 percent over 2012, but sales of premium luxury cars rose 16 percent from the previous year. That trend is continuing in 2014, as the company’s luxury car sales for February improved by 7 percent over the same month a year ago.

“It’s timed perfectly,” Cannon said of the Wesley Chapel store. “The premier luxury car business is doing fabulously.”

AutoNation sells one out of every 10 new Mercedes in the United States. The Wesley Chapel store will be the company’s 19th Mercedes dealership; it will feature a 21,000-square-foot showroom and 22-bay service department. Cannon said the company would hire about 100 sales and service personnel.

The company paid $5 million in September for 5.5 acres at the northeast corner of the interchange. The building construction will bring the total investment to $17 million.

Fink owns the nation’s top-selling Hyundai dealership in New Port Richey, but he said the Wesley Chapel area quickly is gaining a reputation as the Tampa Bay area’s destination for new car shoppers. “People in New Tampa don’t want to drive all the way to Florida Avenue [in Tampa] to go car shopping,” he said.

The same demographics that make the Wesley Chapel “perfect for Volkswagen” also apply to Mercedes-Benz. “The demographics are younger, high-income and dual-income families — they really like German import cars,” Fink said.

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