Sonic details plans for used-car network

UPDATED: 8/18/14 10:44 am ET - adds link

Sonic Automotive Inc. is naming its new used-vehicle business EchoPark and eventually aims to put the stand-alone stores in more than 50 markets across the country.

The EchoPark name, announced today, was chosen after six months of research and about a half-dozen focus groups, said Sonic President Scott Smith. Sonic executives wanted to avoid using “car” or similar words in the name.

“Part of the strategy of creating something completely new and different was to come up with a name that’s completely new and different,” Smith said. “With ‘echo,’ people seemed to relate to the feeling that we hear you. And ‘park’ gave them a feeling of calm and peacefulness and everything a park represents.”

The EchoPark stores will begin to open in late fall in the Denver area. Sonic, the nation’s fourth-largest dealership group, has begun hiring and training employees.

The launch begins with a main hub in the north-central Denver suburb of Thornton and follows with neighborhood stores in Centennial and Highlands Ranch. More locations are planned, including neighborhood stores in Golden and Dakota Ridge.

The EchoPark model, which Sonic executives predict will be a “game changer” for the used-car business, will feature a hub store in each market that is substantially larger than other locations in the market. In Denver, the hub store in Thornton is on 10 acres. It will handle all reconditioning work and distribute inventory to the neighborhood stores.

Hub stores are expected to have about 300 vehicles in stock, Smith said, while a neighborhood store, which he likened to a Starbucks-type venue, typically will have fewer than 40 vehicles on hand.

Smith declined to say where the EchoPark venture will head after Denver. Sonic is acquiring real estate in other markets, and executives anticipate adding two or three markets a year. That pace could speed up if the venture goes really well, Smith said.

Ultimately, more than 50 markets are expected, he said, with up to 10 stores in each. Said Smith: “We’re building a national brand.”

You can reach Amy Wilson at -- Follow Amy on Twitter: @theamywilson

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