Cimino embraced Saturn's no-haggle sales approach. Now he wants to keep it alive at his three remaining Saturn stores even if the brand is dead.
News that the Penske deal had collapsed sent Cimino and other Saturn dealers scurrying for ways to stay open and save thousands of jobs at the brand's approximately 350 remaining dealerships. Some dealers say they have as much as five months of inventory on their lots.
Saturn may be a dying brand, but Cimino sees opportunity.
First, he plans to beef up inventories at his three Saturn stores, all in Colorado: in Denver, Chapel Hills and Colorado Springs. Last week Cimino sold the building that housed his Scottsdale, Ariz., Saturn store.
Phil Long Dealerships' sales topped $400 million last year. It ranked No. 69 on the Automotive News list of the top 125 dealership groups in the United States, with new-vehicle retail unit sales of 8,585 in 2008.
Phil Long has about 400 Saturn vehicles. Cimino wants to snap up as many Saturns as he can from other dealers' inventories to profit from the brand's clearance sales.
By early next year, GM says, it wants dealers to sell the nearly 9,400 Saturn vehicles still in stock. To clear them out, GM is offering big discounts: $5,000 if the customer already owns a Saturn -- even if the customer doesn't trade it in -- and $4,000 if not.
Once Cimino's inventories of new Saturn vehicles are exhausted, his Saturn stores will become used-car dealerships that will continue the brand's "no haggle" sales approach.
At its peak, Saturn had become the top franchise in the Phil Long group, which also includes three Ford, two Hyundai, one Kia, one Mercedes-Benz, one Audi and one Suzuki store. Cimino says he's in talks to buy a Toyota store.
But he and other Saturn dealers struggled in recent years. In December 2008, Cimino shuttered his Pueblo, Colo., Saturn store. Soon after, he shut a Saturn store in Highlands Ranch, Colo.