Automakers are chasing shoppers at the mall, again

Rick Kranz is product editor for Automotive News
Rick Kranz

What's that saying, What's old is new again?

This time it's a Hyundai showroom in a shopping mall.

A new trend? Well, how do you define “new”? I remember the Edsel showroom that was set up in the late 1950s in a sprawling, upscale suburban shopping center just north of Chicago.

What triggered my memory of the Edsel dealership is a story that appeared in the Feb. 7 issue of Automotive News. The story was written by my colleague, Ryan Beene, and describes the Potamkin Automotive Group's new Hyundai showroom, in the Westfield Downtown Plaza Mall in Sacramento, Calif.

The mall location was viewed as an inexpensive way to generate leads for Potamkin's two other Hyundai dealerships in the area. Since opening in December, the store has sold enough Hyundais to cover startup costs. The showroom has no service or parts operation.

Back in the '50s, millions of Americans moved to the suburbs. Soon things called “shopping centers” and “malls” started blossoming in suburbia.

I remember the Edsel showroom that was created at what I believe was the Old Orchard Shopping Center in Skokie, Ill. It was either there or at Edens Plaza, a few miles north in Wilmette.

The 1958 Edsels were displayed outside, near the construction site as the showroom and the remaining portion of the shopping center were completed.

The shopping center showroom didn't last long. Of course, neither did Edsel.

However, I think Potamkin has a better shot at success with its mall location.

Hyundai's cars are better looking!

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