CLIFTON PARK — Northstar Chevrolet will undergo extensive renovations and rebranding to become Mohawk Chevrolet.
The owner and general manager of Mohawk Honda in Glenville announced Wednesday that they had acquired the Clifton Park Chevy dealership. They said it would remain open for sales and service until the overhaul is completed, sometime in 2020, and will retain current Northstar staff as employees.
However, Mohawk Chevrolet won’t have a long-term presence at Northstar’s longtime home near the southbound on-ramp at Northway Exit 9: The new owners eventually plan to move it to Exit 12 in Malta.
The sale closed recently and the transfer was completed Monday. Jeff Haraden and Andy Guelcher, president and general manager respectively of Mohawk Honda, said Wednesday they’re looking forward to expanding the Mohawk model of service to a second location.
Haraden is a third-generation auto dealer — his family founded what is now Mohawk Honda in 1919 in Schenectady. The new dealership is something a return to roots for him, he said Wednesday: “For many of our 100 years and up until 1980, we operated as a Chevy dealership.”
(Second Chevy connection: Mohawk Honda occupies the former Salisbury Chevrolet dealership property near the intersection of Freemans Bridge Road and Route 50.)
Guelcher has made a career at auto dealerships but this is his first foray into ownership.
“I’ve been doing this for 17 years and it has always been a goal of mine from at least [the third] year,” he said.
Guelcher’s entire career has been centered on Honda vehicles, but it’s not a big leap to suddenly sell Chevrolets, he said. Each manufacturer has its own nuances of culture and procedure, but selling their cars is essentially the same process, he added. The repair and maintenance side of the business also isn’t brand-specific — Mohawk Honda services all makes on site. It has to: Many of the nearly 300 used cars it sells each month aren’t Hondas.
Guelcher said the important thing to carry over to the Chevrolet dealership will be Mohawk's people-first philosophy, and that too transcends make and model.
They’re also going to bring over the Xchange program, a circular sale-service-buyback-resell model designed to build value for Mohawk’s new-car buyers, confidence for Mohawk’s used-car buyers and customer loyalty toward Mohawk itself.
Mohawk Honda has apparently hit the mark: Guelcher said it has the top volume of new and certified used vehicle sales among the 105 dealers in American Honda Motor Company’s Zone 9, which is New York and New England outside the New York City metropolitan area.
Johnna Kennedy, a nine-year Mohawk Honda employee who most recently was its finance director, is the new general manager at Mohawk Chevrolet.
Guelcher plans to wear two hats, GM at Mohawk Honda and co-owner of Mohawk Chevrolet, while the renovations are underway. Beyond the makeover, there’s a lot more planning and construction ahead for the new dealership, which is penned in on three sides at Exit 9 and smothered by commuters each weekday.
“It’s the best visibility and the worst traffic,” Guelcher marveled. “Traffic essentially stops there every morning.”
The partners have acquired about 8 acres at Northway Exit 12 in Malta and plan to build a new 60,000-square-foot dealership there from scratch.
“It’s going to give us a footprint we can grow into,” Guelcher said.