Some of the new offerings on auto dealers row in Libertyville feature more than the latest models of cars and trucks.
With shiny new facades and a variety of other improvements completed or planned, several of the village's auto dealerships have been or will be making significant upgrades.
"We did a complete facelift exterior and interior," said Dan Marks, owner of Libertyville Lincoln. The new look, which was substantially completed a few months ago, includes more windows and a "very crisp" look, Marks said.
"With the car business improving over the last couple of years, it was time to do it," he said.
The work appears to be driven by a combination of factors, including directives from parent companies, improving sales and the availability of a village sales tax incentive.
Lincoln is the most recent project, but half or more of the village's 14 dealerships have renovations or upgrades in the works.
"Libertyville is still a destination for buying cars. All the dealers see value in keeping their facilities up to speed," said Glenn Bockwinkel, who heads the Libertyville Mile of Cars consortium of 11 local dealers.
"We wouldn't spend the money if we didn't think business was coming back and the economy is coming back," said Bockwinkel, general manager at Acura of Libertyville, where sales are up 26 percent over last year.
Auto sales long have been the bedrock of village revenue and account for more than half of Libertyville's sales tax income, which is used for day-to-day expenses and services. That source is considered so important that village officials in 2008 designated business districts and an incentive to cover all the dealers.
"We wanted to make sure our dealerships remained relevant to maintain our vehicle corridor," said Heather Rowe, the village's economic development coordinator. "We wanted to make sure they could continue to grow within the confines of their sites."
The incentive rebates 30 percent to 60 percent of any new sales above an average calculated over several years for up to 10 years, with an extension possible. The total can't exceed the amount of the improvement, with the expectation the renovation will increase sales.
So far, only Libertyville Chevrolet, which finished its improvements four years ago, has been approved for the incentive. Lincoln and others are under review.
"It's part of the equation," Marks said. "Yes, it helps."
In the automotive and filling station category for sales tax, Libertyville received about $5.3 million in 2000, about $4.3 million in 2007 and about $3.4 million in 2011.
"That doesn't mean you stop investing," Rowe said. "We knew the difficulties and knew there were sites available in other communities."
Next up is Libertyville Toyota & Scion, which is awaiting building permits for a $3.5 million upgrade to include facade and interior improvements, modifications to the service drive and other work. The parent company, AutoNation Inc., of Fort Lauderdale, earlier this year purchased four adjoining acres for future expansion.
"To me, it's significant," Rowe said of that work. "They're pretty much our largest volume dealer and for them to keep relevant is important."
Also in the works, Libertyville Kia plans to move across the street from its Liberty Auto Plaza location. Libertyville Buick, GMC has been approved for a new facade and showroom.
One of the more extensive proposed renovations involves Liberty Auto City, which has several brands at its facility on Route 176. While still in process and subject to change, the work could include the demolition of one building, a facade upgrade and new service areas.
"The building is very old and tired," said owner Joe Massarelli. "We want to put a new facility up for our customers and future customers."