Leslie Turk

Hampton: All is well at Mitsubishi

by Leslie Turk

With so many dealership changes in the past six months, it’s no wonder the unusually low Mitsubishi inventory and a sign blown out by last week’s winds are prompting speculation that yet another local dealer may be getting out of the car business. Not the case, says Mitsubishi dealer Mark Hampton. The inventory is low for the simple reason that car sales are down every where and because he’s having difficulty stocking up on one of the brand’s best seller, the four-door subcompact Lancer.

It’s been no secret in local car circles that Hampton has long hoped to sell his Toyota dealership, located next to Mitsubishi on Johnston Street south of the Mall of Acadiana. “Everything is for sale,” he says, noting that he’s had offers. “They just never hit the number. Now if someone came in and said $20 million, I’d say yes.”

Hampton acknowledges that the automotive industry will never be the same, speculating consolidation will continue for some time. Inventories won’t be as stout as they once were, and dealers will likely be using their free space for more used cars, the dealer says. “Days of big huge advertising budgets, days of big huge inventories are [gone],” he adds. And he expects the worse for the economy may be yet to come. “I don’t think you’ve seen half of what’s going to happen." The upside, he maintains, is that dealers who do make it through this recession will emerge even stronger than before. “Those who hold on will see more value [in their operations.]”

Hampton also owns Nissan, Hyundai and Mitsubishi dealerships in Ft. Walton, Fla.

In other automotive news, Courtesy Automotive Group received approval from Mazda to relocate the Mazda inventory from 5001 Johnston St. to Ambassador Caffery Parkway, the former site of Saturn, a line it has decided to discontinue. The move paves the way for Art Leblanc of Sterling Automotive Group to move his Hyundai dealership from 1111 N. University to the old Mazda site. Leblanc also owns Kia and Suzuki on University, as well as Sterling Automotive in Opelousas.