Sturgeon Bay’s doorstep will soon have a little more life.
Jim Olson Motors is expanding, agreeing to a lease at the former Bergstrom Automotive building at the corner of Highway 42/57 and South Duluth Avenue in Sturgeon Bay.
The high-profile location has stood empty since Bergstrom Automotive pulled out of the city three years ago.
Jim Olson will sell Chrysler Dodge, Jeep, and Ram out of the location beginning April 1. Olson expects to add 15 – 20 salespeople, technicians, and office employees to his workforce. Jim Olson Motors currently sells Chevy, Buick and Cadillac vehicles in the locations next door where they’ve operated for more than five years.
Owner Jim Olson said the building is in great shape and comes well equipped for a smooth transition. He cited several reasons for the expansion.
“We see registrations of Door County people buying Chrysler products in Green Bay,” Olson said. “So we know there’s a local demand for it. Since we’re already here, we can be more efficient and gain some savings. Plus, I feel that we have a better pulse on the business of Sturgeon Bay.”
Bergstrom closed shortly after the financial crash of 2008 throttled the auto industry. American consumers purchased 16.1 million automobiles in 2007, but in 2009 the industry slid dramatically, when just 10.4 million were sold.
Olson said his company was able to survive the last few lean years thanks to loyal customers, some belt-tightening, and a good service business.
Since 2010, auto sales have slowly crept back to life. The National Automobile Dealers Association projects that 13.9 million new cars will be sold in the United States in 2012. Though it’s still a far cry from the industry’s heyday, Olson said he’s optimistic about business and about Sturgeon Bay.
“The average age of a car on the road today is over 10 years old, a historic all-time high,” Olson said. “Not too long ago it was 8.5 years. I’m not saying that it’s right around the corner, but when things do turn around there could be a good-sized, pent-up demand. It could be a quick turnaround.”