Rifle Ford dealer expands with $3 million project, will include CNG service bays
Citizen Telegram Editor
Columbine Ford isn’t letting local worries about the economy keep it down.
And they’re putting their money — as well as some of Ford’s — on the table with a $3 million expansion project that will more than double the existing service, sales, parts and showroom space at the longtime Rifle dealership.
Work began about five weeks ago on the 28,279-square-foot expansion, said Jimmy Breslin, a managing partner and general manager of the local Ford dealer, on Monday, Sept. 9.
“Really, we’ve been selling cars out of an old bowling alley,” he said, alluding to a previous use of the site at 2728 Railroad Ave. “You’d call to make a service appointment, but you wouldn’t be able to get in for four days or so. That’s not [a good way to build] a good relationship with your customers.”
Columbine Ford currently operates out of 13,997 square feet of building space.
A key part of the expansion will include 24 new service bays, compared to the current eight bays, 20 of them able to service vehicles that run on compressed natural gas, or CNG, Breslin said.
Breslin said the new CNG bays will cost around $200,000 and the decision to make them capable of servicing CNG-fueled vehicles was made based on the belief the vehicles will be a growing portion of the automotive industry in the years to come.
Currently, the vast majority of CNG vehicles are sold in fleet orders to companies like Halliburton and Encana, Breslin said.
For the regular everyday motorist, Breslin said CNG vehicles sell at much higher prices than conventionally-fueled vehicles. The savings come in the much-lower cost of the fuel compared to gasoline, he added.
“So we may not be able to make them buy the vehicles now, but we can give them a reason” by building the new service bays to handle those types of vehicles, Breslin said. “And it’s good for the environment,” since the vehicles are cleaner burning than gasoline engines.
Breslin and Front Range auto dealer Mike Peebles, with Colorado Rockies star Todd Helton as a minority partner, have owned Columbine Ford for nearly a year. They purchased the Rifle dealership from Sam Levin and his son, Rick, who operated it for more than 20 years.
“The growth visions we had when we bought the dealership took off rather quickly,” Breslin said. “I’d say we decided in about three months” to proceed with the expansion project.
Ford provided some of the money for the expansion, but did not force Columbine to go forward with the project, Breslin said.
“We just really feel the community deserves to have something better,” he added.
The project, overseen by general contractor Commercial Building Services of Denver, with all subcontractors locally owned, is expected to be finished in February 2015, Breslin said.
It will require the relocation of sales, parts and service personnel when those buildings and offices are torn down and replaced, he added.
“We’ll all be crowded into a couple double-wide trailers for a time,” Breslin said. “But the end result, we feel, is worth a little inconvenience.”
Other additions will include a car wash and express lube service, Breslin noted.
While the Rifle-area economy has continued to limp along in recent years, auto sales have often been a strong point in the city’s monthly sales tax reports.
“We’re jumping in with both feet,” Breslin said. “And it is a loan, so let’s hope we’re right.”
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