Pratt to Expand Dealership to Include Chrysler

The conceptual image of what the new 4,000 foot, four-car showroom will look like when it is completed at Pratt auto dealership, which has expanded to include Chrysler. (Image courtesy of Ian Pratt)

By Lura Jackson

 

   In a “significant investment” into the local community, Ian Pratt has announced that his Calais-based dealership will be expanding to include Chrysler products. The expansion – the first fruits of which will be visible within the new few weeks – will involve the construction of a separate 4,000-foot, four-car showroom in addition to three more service bays and added parts storage space in the existing building.

The new partnership began to be developed last fall when an unfamiliar man in a suit walked into the dealership, Pratt recalls. “I had no idea who he was,” he said. The man introduced himself as Bill Doucette of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles and explained that the brand was looking for a “point” or dealership to sell and service their products in the area. “It kind of shocked me,” Pratt said. “It doesn’t happen very often, particularly in Maine, where there isn’t a growing population.” Doucette explained that Chrysler was drawn to Pratt by their consistently high customer service scores and the dealership’s record sales.

After considering the offer, Pratt made a few qualifications. The deal had to happen quickly, and he wanted 2018 vehicles to be available for the early summer season. Typically, Chrysler won’t let its product be sold until the accompanying building is prepared, but they made an exception in this case. “They were pretty gung-ho about it,” Pratt said. “They’ve been great to work with so far.”

Pratt placed the order for 60 Jeeps and Rams, all of which will be available for perusal in April. At present, there are approximately 200 vehicles on the lot. To accommodate the space needed for the additional vehicles and the new showroom, Pratt has purchased 10.5 adjacent acres in the direction of Washington County Community College. The new ground will be cleared and paved as soon as weather permits.

“We’re really excited about the opportunity, not just for our business to be able to continue to grow, but for the extra good paying jobs we’re creating for the area, and for people to be able to get local service on their brand,” Pratt said. There will be approximately ten jobs created by the expansion, ranging from technicians to salespeople to the front-end of the dealership; Pratt is already hiring to meet the need.

A substantial investment into parts and the tools needed to work on the new models is another component of the expansion. Being able to receive service locally is key for new and existing customers, Pratt said. “All the major manufacturers right now make a pretty good product, but what it really comes down to is to be able to get good local service after the sale.”

Noting that the last Chrysler dealership to exist in the area was approximately two decades ago, Pratt expressed that he is glad to offer the brand locally. “I like that Chrysler is an American icon brand. That means a lot to me. I really prefer to represent domestic manufacturers since that’s more jobs for Americans and that’s important to me.”

The expansion represents a major success story for the Pratt dealership, which began in 1996 on a dirt lot with ten used cars. Over time, the business grew, with word of mouth spreading about its products and even-handed approach. The development of the internet enabled Pratt’s highly competitive prices to reach around the state. The dealership offers to match or beat the lowest advertised price of any new vehicle in Maine, something it can do through its low overhead and skilled salespeople. “You’ll get the lowest price locally and get local service, so it’s like a win-win for the consumer,” Pratt said. “We try to make the experience hassle-free. That’s how we’ve continued to grow.”

Pratt sees the expansion as indicative of a trend in the Calais area that has seen a number of new chain and local businesses opening over the past few years. “It’s nice to see things being added again. Working together, we can add even more. We can really grow this area,” Pratt said, noting the improvements that have happened in St. Stephen and the expansion of other local businesses. “This area has a lot to offer. There’s so much opportunity here for us to continue to get better and to continue to grow.”