One of Libertyville's auto dealers has closed suddenly and village officials are wondering what will happen next with the business that is part of an important source of sales tax.
Libertyville Buick GMC, one of about a dozen dealerships that comprise a key source of revenue for the village, last week was said to be on the way out. The doors were locked Monday, no one answered the phone and few cars were in the lot at 1120 S. Milwaukee Ave.
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"It was sudden," Mayor Terry Weppler said.
The closing was not thought to be the result of poor sales but because of action by General Motors, according to Weppler and others. He said there had been an interested buyer for the dealership but GM blocked the sale. Representatives for Buick or GM could not be reached Monday.
"We don't know the intent of GM at this time but we're trying to find out," Weppler said.
Libertyville Buick GMC General Manager Peter Gioulos said late last week in an email the terms of the "wind down" were confidential and he was unable to discuss the situation.
The business described itself as "your hometown Libertyville GM dealership" in information associated with the Libertyville Mile of Cars marketing campaign representing about a dozen dealers.
Glenn Bockwinkel, general manager at Acura of Libertyville and head of the local dealer consortium, said that typically GM would have first right of refusal if a dealership goes up for sale. Franchise agreements differ between manufacturers, he added.
"When you look at the demographics and location of the current dealers, I can't believe they would walk away from this market," Bockwinkel said.
In 2011, the auto category accounted for about $3.4 million or 58 percent of Libertyville's total of $5.8 million in sales tax. Dealerships are considered so important the locations all were included by the village in designated districts where incentives are available for improvements.
"My suspicion is it's part of a larger GM strategy and not necessarily indicative of the Libertyville market," said Heather Rowe, economic development coordinator for the village.
She said improvements had been made recently to the interior and showroom. Plans for exterior improvements were not pursued, she added.
"One of the big issues of late is the demand of manufacturers to remodel their stores where they all look the same," said Erik Higgins, director of dealer affairs for the Chicago Automobile Trade Association. "A lot of dealers are resisting this for obvious reasons."
Rowe said village officials think the property will be available and they look forward to working with the next dealership taking over the facility.
"It could take a little while to fill it but I don't think it will be long term," she said.