Vancouver Island's only Acura dealership is closing Monday and being replaced by the hot-selling Kia brand.
The Graham family, who own the Honda and Nissan dealerships in Victoria, said the shift away from Honda's premium brand was due to a deteriorating market for high-end automobiles and the parent company's new blueprint calling for expensive improvements to lots and showrooms.
Ed Graham said yesterday the family has acquired the rights to sell Kia from Reg Midgley, who is converting his lots on the Old Island Highway back to used vehicles.
Kia models were being delivered and Acura signs dismantled yesterday at the dealership at 2620 Government St., at Hillside and Gorge. About $300,000 in improvements will be pumped into the new dealership -- now called Kia Victoria -- and all 24 staff, including sales manager Rick Proctor and dealership manager Eli Pasquale, will be retained in the changeover, said Graham.
Graham said Acura owners can still have warranty and service work done at Campus Honda in Victoria, which has been certified to handle the work.
"Acura's new image program and the economy being what it is, didn't make any [financial] sense to us," said Graham, adding higher-end cars were not selling well during the recession.
"We had to look at the viability of the whole organization and things were beginning to get tough in a tough economy. When the economy was going good with Acura we did really well, but when the economy got tough, it got really tough around here. It was time to make a change."
Graham said consumers are shifting not only to fuel-efficient vehicles, but cars with a better price point.
Kia Motors Corp. is South Korea's second-biggest automaker behind Hyundai. Both are being buoyed by double-digit sales increases in Canada, while some luxury-model makers, Japanese brands and the Big Three in North America have suffered sales slides.
Last month, Kia sold 5,110 new cars in Canada, a 30 per cent increase from July 2008, according statistics compiled by Desrosiers Automotive Consultants.
Although Kia's total market share of new auto sales in Canada is slim -- about half a percentage point -- the company has sold 27,219 vehicles over the first seven months of the year, up more than 20 per cent from a year ago.
Hyundai, meanwhile, has doubled its market share to eight per cent this year compared to last, according to Desrosiers
Graham said a Kia Rio, a standard four-door sedan, sells for under $10,000 and comes with a five-year warranty. The range goes to a $40,000 sport utility vehicle with V8 motor and all the extras. The company also introduced the Forte brand, which is exceeding sales expectations across Canada.
Graham's bother Dick Graham operates the Campus Honda and Campus Nissan dealerships in Victoria.
Their father, Bill Graham, founded the dealerships in Victoria after arriving from North Battleford, Sask., more than 30 years ago where he operated a Pontiac-Buick outlet.
The senior Graham bought a Toyota dealership at Fort and Foul Bay and moved into Datsun products a few years later. When Datsun became Nissan, Graham moved to the family's current location on Oak Street, where they also sell Nissan's high-end line, Infiniti.firstname.lastname@example.org
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