MONTGOMERY, Ala. — Bill Penney opened his Toyota store in Huntsville, Ala., in 1967 after acquiring the unknown brand's franchise in exchange for two tickets to the World Series.
Fifty years later, the sky opened up and began raining money onto his grandson who now runs the store.
"We've got some planning to do," Dealer Principal Zack Penney said here last week as he watched Alabama's governor announce that Toyota and Mazda will invest $1.6 billion to build a 4,000-employee assembly plant in his dealership's backyard. "We'll need to expand."
Penney and his managers are putting pencil to paper — literally, says General Manager Hunter Johnson — to estimate the volume increase they likely will experience from the influx of Toyota personnel with factory discounts, employee leases and special programs.
Last year, Bill Penney Toyota sold 2,633 new vehicles, making it one of the biggest Toyota stores in the state already. But the third-generation dealer expects that the new factory will generate another 1,500 to 2,000 sales annually.
"It's not just the 4,000 employees who will work there," Penney calculates. "It is them, their spouses, their children and other family members — maybe 20,000 to 30,000 new customers when you add them all up."
The most immediate need will be for an expanded service business, Johnson and Penney believe. The store processes 200 to 250 service tickets a day. A bigger ownership base will require more service bays and probably other expanded services.
Penney's sales and fixed operations already benefit from the 1,350 employees at Toyota's engine plant in Huntsville. The store sends runners to that plant daily to pick up vehicles for servicing. That activity alone is certain to get busier as the new plant takes shape.
Meanwhile, Penney has been in communication with a kindred spirit — the owner of the Toyota store that serves the automaker's assembly plant in Georgetown, Ky. — to know what to expect.
"He's been through this," Penney said. "And we need to know how to plan for what's coming."