Billings auto dealer Steve Zabawa believes that Rimrock Auto Group’s new GMC Cadillac store on Shiloh Road is the best location in Billings.
During a March 13 grand opening that also marked Rimrock Auto Group’s 20th anniversary, Zabawa said the new store at 840 S. Shiloh Road is already bringing in new traffic.
“In just the short 30 days out here, our traffic is up 50 percent, not only in service but in sales,” Zabawa said. “It is really a great location and people are really attracted to it.” He said Tony Woolery, manager of the Rimrock GMC Cadillac store, and his staff have elevated the level of service and have hit the ground running.
Chuck MacGregor, western region manager for Cadillac, said he visited the site last June just as building was getting underway. He had just visited Rimrock Auto Group’s sophisticated Mercedes Benz dealership and admitted that he felt a touch of jealousy.
“I don’t think there was anything more than the footings,” MacGregor said of the previous visit. “Sure enough, I’m back here and it’s nice to say the Cadillac GMC store is the best-looking facility in Billings, if not the whole state.”
Steve and Susan Zabawa and John and Ann Soares started Rimrock Auto Group two decades ago with the purchase of the city’s GMC franchise.
The GMC dealership, which has green, energy-efficient features, is their seventh in Billings.
“They (GMC) are not only supporting us financially in this expansion but have also pledged additional inventory in recognition of Billings as a major regional automotive shopping hub,” Zabawa said.
MacGregor, of California, said the Billings store is one of only half a dozen new dealerships being built in the West this year. It is the only one in Montana, he said.
MacGregor said he expects Cadillac sales in Billings to go from about 60 vehicles last year to about 100 this year and GMC sales to rise from 200 to 300.
The Rimrock Auto partners spent about $7.5 million on the project, including buying four acres of land. The building is twice as large as the VW dealership that opened next door in May 2012 at the corner of King and Shiloh.
A&E Architects of Billings handled the design. Jones Brothers of Billings built the 30,000-square-foot structure in eight months.
The U.S. Small Business Administration and Stockman Bank provided financing, with involvement from Big Sky Economic Development.
Wayne Nelson, Billings market president for Stockman Bank, noted that Zabawa and Soares had been planning to move to the Shiloh-King area for nearly a decade, and they weren’t deterred by the economic downturn.
“Steve had a vision. I’m just glad to be part of this. They have a great business model,” Nelson said.
General Motors was one of two of the Big Three U.S. automakers that filed for bankruptcy during the national recession in 2008 and 2009. The company received a federal bailout of nearly $50 billion. Much of that has been repaid, except for about $10 billion, according to The Wall Street Journal.
Like other automakers, GMC had downsized, cutting its U.S. dealers from about 7,000 to 4,000.
The GMC dealership has been located at 2540 Phyllis Lane, by Rimrock Mall.
In about two months, Rimrock Auto will open an auto-detailing store under construction at King Avenue West and South 30th Street West.