CLAY — Davidson Automotive Group recently broke ground on a new location on Route 31 in Clay that will feature a Ford dealership, a Davidson Collision Center, and a Precision Car Wash — all on one campus.
Davidson Automotive Group’s current Ford franchise in Fulton, the former Fred Raynor Ford, will move to the upcoming Clay site once it is completed by next May, according to Dwight Davidson, one of the company’s four principal owners. He declined to disclose the cost of the project or how it will be funded, saying only that it’s “a substantial investment … in the market and the community.”
Davidson Automotive purchased six different plots, totaling about 32 acres, from two owners, Davidson says. It closed on the properties in November 2015, according to Sara Davidson, brand-marketing manager for the company.
The Davidson Ford dealership building will be 40,000 square feet, and its address will be 3690 State Route 31, she says. The Davidson Collision Center building will be 29,000 square feet and have an address of 3660 Route 31, while the Precision Car Wash will encompass 4,200 square feet at 3670 Route 31.
Davidson Automotive hired Watertown–based DC Building Systems as the project’s general contractor, and Barneveld–based Central New York Construction is serving as the site contractor.
Between 20 and 25 employees currently work at Davidson’s Fulton Ford dealership, according to Dwight Davidson. He plans to move all of them to the new facility. That won’t come close to the number of employees needed in Clay, however.
“We’ll be, minimum, 100 employees for all the businesses on that property. Could be even 125,” most of whom will work for the dealership, Davidson says. Davidson Automotive has not officially begun soliciting job applications, but that will begin very soon. Davidson says the company has been approached by people already, and has engaged with some of them.
The majority of the new positions will be technicians, salespeople, service advisers, collision advisers, and parts people, he adds.
Why Clay over Fulton?
One reason for investing in a new facility is the attractive size of the Clay market (Clay is Syracuse’s largest suburb), Davidson says, as well as the land that was available. At roughly 32 acres, the plot is large enough for Davidson Automotive to build a complex with each of the group’s three ventures: sales, collision repair, and car wash.
“That’s kind of our business model going forward. When we go into a market, we want to bring all our automotive services companies,” Davidson says.
Having a complete site is an improvement over the Fulton location — which is only a dealership — because it will allow the group to properly service Ford customers in both sales and service. “We consider ourselves an automotive-services company, not just an auto-dealership company,” he says.
Having a state-of-the-art building has its advantages as well, Davidson says. “We invest a lot of money in our facilities because we know consumers like to do business with an operation that keeps their facilities clean and tidy and up to date.”
The facility in Fulton, which is situated at 1849, State Route 3, is old and makes it challenging to service customers as well, Davidson says. Davidson Automotive acquired that dealership from Fred Raynor in the spring of 2015, and has been leasing the space and facility from him ever since, Davidson explains.
The idea to open a Ford dealership in Clay spawned a few years ago, after Davidson Automotive approached Ford about the possibility of filling in a space left in the area when another Ford dealership closed, Davidson says.
“They were willing to consider moving a dealer, but they didn’t want to add an additional dealer into the market. And it just so happened at the same time, I had became aware that Fred Raynor was deciding whether he was going to build a new building or sell his franchise.” Davidson and his partners seized on the opportunity.
The Clay site is the only project currently on the docket for Davidson Automotive. “We don’t do multiple projects at one time,” Davidson explains. “We want to make sure our current operation is stable and operating properly before we go onto another project.”
With that caveat in mind, he adds that long-term growth is the company’s goal. “We tend not to grow too rapidly,” he says. “This is a substantial project for us. It’s important for us to get it right from a customer-service standpoint.”