New Lexus dealership under construction

A $35 million new Lexus dealership is being built in Henderson, and some in the local auto industry hope the big investment will boost the struggling sector in 2010.

The owners of Lexus of Las Vegas have broken ground and are already pouring cement for what will be next year’s largest — and possibly the only — major car dealership construction project completed in Southern Nevada. The 10.2-acre dealership is scheduled to open in November, and will be across from Findlay Toyota in the Valley Auto Mall on Eastgate Road.

“I don’t know of any others that are being built (in the valley),” Lexus of Las Vegas General Manager Lee Butler said.

As top executive at Lexus of Las Vegas, Butler will also run the Henderson dealership. He is confident the project is a good move, despite the worst local economy since the Great Depression.

“We just think there is a large demand for our product in Henderson, and a huge demand overall in that area,” he said.

The new Lexus of Henderson is expected to employ about 70 people. It is a much-needed shot of good news for the local automotive industry, after 2009 saw a series of failed dealerships and forced closures of some Chrysler lots. The Valley Auto Mall also suffered the demise of its own Saturn of Henderson dealership after General Motors announced it was discontinuing the brand.

The auto industry as whole has suffered as the economy tanked in Nevada. The latest statewide taxable sales numbers from October showed a 14.1 year-over-year decrease in car sales.

But Lexus of Las Vegas has bucked that trend. Strong sales at the first Lexus location on West Sahara Avenue led officials from owner Ascent Automotive of Houston, which also owns Lexus dealerships in Cleveland and in Akron, Ohio, to proceed with the dealership in Henderson.

October sales for Lexus of Las Vegas jumped 30 percent from the same month the year before, while November’s sales increased 21 percent from November 2008.

Perhaps more surprising, the dealership increased its sales this year without involving the federal government’s “Cash for Clunkers” program.

“This year, 2009, was much better for us than 2008 was. I think it has a lot to do with the brand,” Butler said.

He called Lexus a carmaker offering “value and luxury,” with more standard features included than its high-end competitors.

Findlay Automotive is planning to open a 25,000-square-foot dealership in 2011 in the northwest valley. That construction is scheduled to begin in 2010, Findlay Automotive Chief Financial Officer Tyler Corder said.

Chevrolet National Dealership Council co-Chairman Greg Heinrich said the local car market is better than the sales numbers reflect.

“This is a good car market,” he said. “And luxury cars are selling well.”

As evidence of the demand for high-end cars, he pointed to recent remodel of the Mercedes-Benz dealership, which is also housed in the Valley Auto Mall.

Heinrich was optimistic about the plans for the Lexus of Henderson dealership’s opening.

“It is only one I know of, and yes, it is bucking the trend,” Heinrich said. “But I think it is a good sign.”

Contact reporter Valerie Miller at or 702-387-5286.