Evans Dealer Group building for the future of the Miami Valley
Jim Evans is a busy man.
Evans, the owner and president of Evans Dealer Group, recently opened his newest venture, the Evans 4×4 Arena next to his Chrysler/Dodge/Jeep/Ram dealership at 924 Shiloh Springs Road in Harrison Township.
The Evans 4×4 Arena is an obstacle course built to showcase the off-road capabilities of the Jeep and Ram vehicles, says Evans. “We want to give people the ability to really have a unique experience to see what their vehicles can do without having to really endanger themselves or get their own car filthy and dirty and muddy and everything else,” he says.
Customers can go to any showroom in the Miami Valley and test drive a Jeep or Ram on the streets or interstates, says Evans, but nowhere else in the area can customers experience what a production version of a Jeep or Ram could do off road.
Customers are able to experience those off-road capabilities by going through the course with a staff member who has been trained to drive the course, says Evans. “We wanted to really demonstrate what made these vehicles so unique. We did not specially modify any cars. These are exactly the same cars if somebody came in to buy a Wrangler or a Renegade or a Ram truck.”
The course, which opened at the end of April, was a nine-month project covering about 8 acres of land, he says. A company from the state of Washington that specializes in building obstacle courses for automotive manufacturers was hired to build the obstacle course.
The company flew in what it calls its “bulldozer artisans” to build the course, says Evans. The course was projected to be finished in the fourth quarter of 2017, but Evans says the company that built the course was busy building obstacle courses on top of parking lots for the Los Angeles auto show.
The Evans 4×4 Arena obstacle course is the third construction project that the Evans Dealer Group has been involved with in the last three years. In 2015 Evans completed a $1.8 million renovation of his BMW of Dayton, Volvo of Dayton and Evans Volkswagen dealerships at 7124 Poe Ave. Evans bought those three dealerships in 2007.
The renovations consisted of “basically building a brand new BMW showroom,” he says. The renovations included a showroom and service department. “That has been very successful since opening,” he says.
The car business runs in Evans’ blood. Evans’ grandfather started a car dealership in 1937 and in 1998 Evans sold the family’s Mercedes Benz and Nissan dealerships in Florida to AutoNation in 1998. Evans became a senior vice president of AutoNation and served in an executive management position for seven years.
“It was exciting flying all over the country growing a company to be the biggest retailer in the world,” says Evans. “And then I got burned out because it was very corporate and I had been used to an independent business-minded operation and so I thought I was retiring.”
That was in 2005 that he thought he was retiring. He wasn’t.
“I was bored out of my mind after a year,” says Evans. The car business, however, was still in his blood. “I was looking to get back into the business and starting with a luxury franchise because I had been a Mercedes Benz dealer for so long,” he says.
But not many Mercedes Benz or BMW dealerships are available to buy, Evans says. So when the opportunity to buy the BMW dealership became available in 2007 Evans says he sat down and put the deal together.
After completing the extensive renovations to the three dealerships on Poe Avenue Evans turned his attention to the Infiniti of Dayton Dealership he bought in 2015 at 299 Loop Road in Centerville.
In 14 months Evans says the building was “almost leveled” and a brand new building for a showroom was constructed along with a renovated service department. Evans spent about $3.5 million on the reconstruction of the Infiniti of Dayton dealership.
Evans says he is committed to spending his money in the Miami Valley. He contracted with local general contractors and local subcontractors for all three of his company’s construction projects. “We wanted to make sure that we really spent our money in the Miami Valley,” says Evans.
He also wants to make sure that customers who spend their money at his dealerships are shown appreciation. That’s why he recently started his VIP program to give customers something more than just a “thank you” for buying a new or used car from one of his eight dealerships.
The VIP program provides customers with two free oil changes, a $750 future trade-in bonus, a three-day vehicle exchange option, new-car dent removal for the first year, free manicures for people who bring their car into the dealership for service work on Mondays, free car washes for people who bring their car in for service on Saturdays and free chauffer service to the airport for those who bring their cars in for service before flying out of town.
Another way Evans Dealer Group shows its appreciation to the community is by donating money to local charities, he says. The BMW/Volvo/Volkswagen dealership even provided cardiopulmonary resuscitation training for customers. “We try to be a good community neighbor,” says Evans.
Contributing to the community may be in the family DNA. Evans says one of the reasons he built the Evans 4×4 Arena obstacle course was to honor his great uncle, Roy Evans, who owned the American Bantam car company and is credited with inventing the iconic Jeep that helped the Allies win World War II.
In fact, Evans has one of the earliest Jeeps ever manufactured on display at the Chrysler/Dodge/Jeep/Ram dealership. The Smithsonian Museum also has one of the earliest Jeeps ever manufactured, but Evans says his Jeep only has 20 miles on it. “It’s in better shape than the one at the Smithsonian,” he says.
And the Evans Dealer Group appears to be in great shape as it looks forward to the future. “Part of the reason that I believe in investing in the facilities and investing in our people is to make sure we continue to grow,” Evans says.
And that makes Evans a busy man.