As business development director for two Planet Hyundai stores in Southern Nevada and with a major expansion of the West Sahara Avenue location coming in July, George Etheridge is a busy man.
Etheridge, a retired U.S. Marine and former resident of Timisoara, Romania, and Pristina, Kosovo, has been in Las Vegas for the past four months.
"The shoppers in Europe really work the Internet intensely for their research," said the 47-year-old Etheridge, who grew up in Boston before moving to Florida. "In this country research is done the same way, particularly as the automotive market caters to the consumer. The consumer in America can get much more information for their product research in this country than he or she can in Europe. Here, you can buy a car almost right on the phone whereas that's not the case in Europe."
Etheridge said European car dealerships encourage their buyers to shop at the dealership rather than "getting all their ducks in a row before they arrive."
Etheridge and his wife spent 3½ years in Europe, where he worked as a consultant for several dealerships.
"I had no fear at all of going to Europe," said Etheridge, adding that car buyers in Europe only shop Monday through Friday. "It's a different mentality there. The majority of businesses in Eastern Europe shut down on the weekends primarily because many are family-owned-and-operated businesses.
"As bad as some may complain about the economy here, we are blessed to live in the United States," he said.
Hyundai has a tremendous presence worldwide, he said.
"The problem there is that it's much harder to purchase a new Hyundai in Europe because many of the dealerships are much smaller than ours here today," he said. "The Hyundai is a hot car in Europe. In fact, the people there love German cars and compare the Hyundai vehicle to the German engineering that is world-acclaimed."
The Hyundai growth pattern has been intense, he said.
"The market share is up 9.6 percent in Las Vegas as compared to a year ago. The vehicle has advanced so dramatically in the past few years and, in fact, it's the hottest and most popular vehicle in the country right now," he said.
Etheridge is such an enthusiast of the Hyundai that he owns a 2012 Hyundai Sonata Limited, which has been compared to several imports that are much higher in price.
"Car for car, you're looking at up to $5,000 less than a comparable Japanese vehicle. When you add in the fact that the Hyundai has a 10-year, 100,000-mile power train warranty, there simply is no comparison," he said.
"I wouldn't drive anything other than a Hyundai. It's the best buy for the buck. I bought the car because I truly believe in it. In addition, the Hyundai is the No. 1 car in resale value today and retains more value over the life of a car - better than any other model on the market today.
"The fit and finish on these cars is absolutely incredible. They use lasers to line up body panels and robots to build them."
The Planet Hyundai dealerships include Planet Hyundai Sahara at 7150 W. Sahara Ave. and Planet Hyundai Centennial at 6200 Centennial Center Blvd.
Call 938-1400 (Sahara) or 483-2200 (Centennial) or visit www.planetlv.com for further information.