The owner of six Las Vegas-area car dealerships is consolidating operations due to slow sales.
The owner, Superstore Auto Group, said Wednesday it will close Centennial Hyundai and move about 90 percent of its employees to another dealership.
The move comes as auto sales nationally are down nearly 40 percent for the first two months of the year.
Centennial, which opened just six months ago in an area that’s been hard hit by foreclosures, is feeling the brunt of the economic downturn.
Still, Superstore President John Staluppi says he will retain a franchise agreement with Hyundai Motor America so he can reopen the dealership when the market improves.
“This store could very well open in the next 18 to 24 months or sooner, as the business climate dictates” said Superstore spokesman Tom Letizia.
In the meantime the bulk of the 60-person Centennial work force will move to Planet Hyundai on West Sahara Avenue.
Employees are already in the process of moving and inventory will soon follow.
Letizia said customers who have unresolved business at the Centennial location can go to Planet Hyundai.
He contrasted the situation at Centennial against the abrupt shutdown Sept. 24 of nationwide Chevrolet dealer Bill Heard, which included two locations in Las Vegas.
“They just left and didn’t tell a soul,” he said. “This is a nice smooth transition here today.”
Chris Hosford, spokesman for Hyundai Motor America, said “several” of the estimated 800 Hyundai dealerships in the country have closed since the recession worsened in recent months, although Centennial is the only one that retained a franchise agreement with a plan to reopen.
Nationally, Hyundai sells about 450,000 vehicles annually and despite the downturn for the broader industry, has seen its sales in the United States increase about 4 percent in January and February, Hosford said.
Car sales typically rise and fall with the housing market, Hosford said, which could account for the troubles at Centennial.
Hosford said it is a “terrible market” but that Centennial plans to reopen is a sign of confidence that Las Vegas will recover eventually.
“Often the dealer involved in a dealer termination doesn’t want to continue,” Hosford said. “In this case, the dealer has indicated the economy in Las Vegas is going to improve.”
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Although Centennial Hyundai will close, parent company Superstore Auto Group remains and will handle unresolved Centennial business through Planet Hyundai, 7150 W. Sahara Avenue.
Customers can call Centennial through Friday at 589-7300. After Friday they can reach Planet Hyundai at 938-1400.