Say hello to the newest Baxter Ford.
Tuesday, Mickey Anderson and the Performance Auto Group will open the doors to the company's new dealership near 185th Street and West Dodge Road in the former Reagan Buick Pontiac GMC building that Anderson bought last December.
The opening marks the end of the Performance Ford operation at 119th Street and West Dodge Road and the official adoption of the Baxter Ford name for all dealerships in Omaha.
Take a stroll through the new digs and you'll notice that this is no ordinary Ford dealership.
Visitors first encounter a giant sheet of etched glass bearing the Ford logo. Turn right and you'll find a children's play area, with a treehouse, AstroTurf, Nintendo Wii video game system and a slide, all behind noise-dampening glass.
A lounge area in the southwest corner of the building has a fireplace and flat-screen television.
Anderson, president of 12 dealerships in the Midwest, including the Performance locations in La Vista and Baxter operations in Omaha, said the new building is unlike any Ford facility he has seen.
“You would have to look to a luxury brand that offers as much as this store does,” Anderson said. “Of our 12 stores, this will offer the greatest amount of customer amenities we've ever had.”
Such amenities are more important today than ever, Anderson said. Service is quicker and consumers come to dealerships armed with background research they've done over the Internet.
The dealership is equipped with the latest technology, so employees can explain to new buyers how to use the 21st century features of today's Fords.
Ford's Sync system, for example, allows drivers to link their smart phones or PDAs with the car's electronics so they can answer calls by touching a button, or make calls by giving oral instructions.
It's important for Ford customers to understand how to use those features, Anderson said.
A glass mural that traces the progression of Ford, from founder Henry Ford and the Model T to the newest Taurus, stretches along one wall.
Office, advertising and sales associates work behind the glass mural, which looks like a tinted window. They can see through and monitor the sales floor, but people on the other side can't see in.
When Anderson purchased the building, it had about 40,000 square feet of space. He added an additional 10,000 square feet to expand the parts area and to create service bays for commercial vehicles like large trucks and vans.
In preparation of the move, Anderson hired an additional 15 employees, bringing the dealership's total employment to 80.
Anderson has been in the automotive business for 20 years, taking over Performance Auto Group with his sister after the death of his father, Tal Anderson. He said he is excited about the direction of Ford.
Ford CEO Alan Mulally has made good decisions, Anderson said. He brought successful models to the United States that previously were available only in South America and Europe, such as the Fiesta compact and the Transit Connect, a commercial minivan-type vehicle, Anderson said.
Add that to the fact that the company was the only domestic automaker that didn't take federal bailout funds, Anderson said, and continuing Performance's allegiance with Ford wasn't up for debate.
“It was easy for us to justify this investment in Ford,” Anderson said.
He said the name was changed from Performance Ford to Baxter Ford because “it cleans up who we are and where we are.”
The Performance-branded dealerships are in La Vista and the Baxter-branded locations are concentrated in west Omaha, he said.
Anderson declined to say how much he paid for the building or its improvements.
He doesn't plan to immediately sell the 25,000-square-foot Performance Ford building or the 4.5-acre lot at 119th and West Dodge Road. Anderson said he will use it to stage deliveries for Performance's Lexus dealership as well as its service bays and parking lot.
Work was continuing on the facility Friday, but Anderson said everything would be ready for operations Tuesday.
The hardest part of the move will be transporting an estimated “couple hundred thousand” vehicle parts, said Perry Barth, parts manager.
“I'm sweating bullets,” Barth said. “But it's going well.”
Anderson said he'll kick off the new dealership with aggressive opening prices.
Contact the writer: