The Commercial Appeal
Dealership coming to Collierville.
The nation’s poorest large metropolitan area is about to get a second Mercedes-Benz dealership.
But the construction of this one starts July 10 in an economic gold seam of the Memphis area: Near the border of the affluent suburbs of Collierville and Germantown.
Mercedes-Benz of Collierville should open by first quarter next year at 4651 S. Houston Levee Road, next to Carriage Crossing shopping center.
Trudy Higginbotham-Moody of Jackson, Miss., and her father, Dennis Higginbotham of New Smyrna Beach, Fla., are opening the family’s third dealership.
Question is, can Greater Memphis support both the new and the existing Mercedes-Benz of Memphis at 5389 Poplar? Only 13 miles will separate them.
“I have no comment,” said Gunter Stephan, owner of the East Memphis dealership that recently completed a $1.3 million renovation.
“Mercedes-Benz USA is who determines markets and they control the franchises,” said Trudy Higginbotham-Moody, who will be president of the Collierville dealership. “They are the ones who analyzed the areas where there are opportunities to grow their brand.
‘‘They don’t expand too often, but they are in a growth mode. They have lots of new products coming and in the next 10 years have big growth projected. They looked at some areas and determined that Memphis is a prime spot to add another dealership, to the east.”
The decision to open a second Mercedes dealership could be a sign of pent-up demand from people who are growing more confident about their job security and the economy, said Jeff Wallace, research associate professor with the University of Memphis’ Sparks Bureau of
Business and Economic Research.
“A lot of folks have been sitting on cash,” he said.
About 40 percent of Greater Memphis households are considered poor or low income. But “there’s quite a few wealthy individuals in this town,” Wallace said. “And this new dealership is being placed in an area where growth is still occurring within Shelby County.
“If you look at which way the population is moving in the local area, it is moving to the east. One of the next areas to really take off in economic development will probably be Fayette County and to an extent Marshall County (Miss.),” Wallace said.
Yes, t he new dealership will offer t he $ 225,000 SLS model, Higginbotham- Moody acknowledged, but is “real excited” to sell the i ncoming, entry- level CLA’s for under $ 30,000.
“And we are very large pre-owned dealers. There’s no limit to our market ... That’s a big part of our business,” she said.
Dennis Higginbotham started the family’s first dealership — with Chev- rolet and Ford — in 1976 in New Smyrna Beach. The family acquired a struggling MercedesBenz dealership there in 1994, turned it around and eventually sold it, acquired a struggling Mercedes dealership in Jackson in 2001 and made it a success, and did the same thing in Myrtle Beach, SC., in 2008.
The family’s key to success, Trudy said, is customer service.
“We understand our customers prioritize their time,” she said. “We are constantly seeking innovations to make the process as quick as possible when you come in for service. We want it to be fast and easy and priced right. We’re open on Saturdays for service and have a fleet of current model year loaner vehicles.”
Their dealerships offer such amenities to service customers as loaner iPads with Netflix.
“Also, having very friendly people working here that are empowered to do whatever it takes to take care of the customer,” she said.
The 41,000-square-foot dealership building will include a 16,000-squarefoot showroom and even a fitness center.
Construction is a joint development of Kevin Vaughan of Township Development Services and Montgomery Martin Contractors.
The dealership will employ 50 people.