Motor city: Warrnambool's the new car Mecca

WARRNAMBOOL’S share of the new car market is bucking national trends with a surge in sales, major expansions and wider reach into the region.

Total annual sales turnover in new cars is estimated at $100 million and several of the city’s five dealerships have embarked on multi-million-dollar expansions which are likely to boost their direct employment, which now totals about 170.

Figures show Warrnambool’s  new-car sales for the first three months this year rose by about eight per cent, while national sales fell by 2.4 per cent.

The recent demise of dealerships in Portland and Hamilton has triggered more trade for Warrnambool, luring customers from as far as the South Australian border and Colac.

“Vehicle sales and service is a large industry in itself plus the supporting businesses and then there are all the clubs and organisations that receive sponsorship,” said Steve Callaghan, dealer principal of Callaghan Motors, which boasts a third of the region’s market sales and is its oldest continuing family dealership.

“For the first three months of this year we’ve jumped out of the blocks with strong sales and have bucked national trends.

“This comes down to Warrnambool being the regional centre and the benefits of a strong dairying industry and the Warrnambool Cheese and Butter takeover revenue.”

A sign of confidence is the city’s Mazda dealership, which is building a state-of-the-art showroom, service department and second-storey offices to rival slick metropolitan dealerships.

Costing several million dollars, it will triple capacity and have display space for more than 100 vehicles and servicing capacity for 40 cars a day.

“We are now classified as a provincial dealer which carries high-quality standards,” Warrnambool Mazda principal Allan Marsh told The Standard. 

The new premises will feature express turnaround where vehicles can have minor servicing and detailing completed within the hour, plus a workshop with a see-through wall so customers in the adjacent Wi-Fi-equipped waiting lounge area can watch technicians at work.

“Warrnambool is an expanding city and our market is to a region of between 50,000 and 60,000 people,” Mr Marsh said.

Project contractor Fairbrother Construction anticipates up to 50 workers on site at peak with completion by Christmas.

“The construction industry looks to be on the rise this year which is good for the local economy,” said Fairbrother division manager Billy Edis.

Further west on Raglan Parade the Norton Motor Group is part-way through a major expansion for its Honda, Hyundai and Volkswagen section in addition to its Ford operations.

“We’ll have three new showrooms plus a 12-bay workshop and expanded capacity for spare parts,” dealer principal Marcus Norton said.

“It will be built to provincial standards with express service and ability for customers to go into the service area.”

“There’s no doubt Warrnambool is increasing its presence as a regional capital.”

The Clinton Baulch Motor Group has recently built new showrooms for its Chrysler, Jeep and Dodge franchise and expects to complete a new service section soon.

It is also planning a facelift for its Nissan and Kia site. 

General manager Andrew Davidson said motoring companies recognised the drawing power of Warrnambool in the region and predicted further growth.

Warrnambool Toyota dealer principal Garry Askew said there had been a significant growth in the local vehicle market in his 27 years in the city.

“This area is fairly stable without the peaks and troughs of other areas. It’s a vibrant city,” he said.

“There are now more franchises operating which hopefully attract more people from outlying areas for sales and service.”

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