Santa Monica Chevrolet-Buick: The Smallest Chevy Dealer in the US?

Posted: November 9, 2011 in Buick, Chevrolet, General Motors, Los Angeles Specific Issues
Tags: , , ,

I know GM has had a hard time here in LA.  Even though GM now has compelling and competitive cars in the market, it’s tough to sell cars to zombies under the spell of Toyota and Honda.  To state the obvious, GM has no one to blame but itself for the horrible products it sold over the past 35 years. Year after year, generations of Southern Californians deserted GM’s crappy products and ran into the waiting clutches of the reliable, inexpensive Japanese imports.

Slowly, GM is rebuilding trust with a new generation of customers here in So Cal; but dealer choices are still pretty sparse in Metro LA.   For a while now, I’ve been fixated with the GM (Chevrolet-Buick) dealership in Santa Monica because it’s the closest dealer to me and something I drive by often. Santa Monica Chevrolet-Buick was located on a small corner lot on Santa Monica Blvd at Centinela on the eastern edge of Santa Monica (90404).   The shallow lot left little room for inventory let alone a large number of service bays.  Hell, the Land Rover dealer two blocks away has a larger, much nicer facility.

Santa Monica Chevrolet-Buick was only in business for five or six years before it seemingly disappeared overnight earlier this year and morphed into Santa Monica Infiniti.  But it didn’t disappear – it’s hiding in plain sight – or so I’m told.

To look at the dealership, you'd be hard pressed to think that any GM products were being sold there.

After Infiniti took over, the old GM logos (Chevy, Buick and Oldsmobile) were removed from the top of the building.  At first, only the large Infiniti logo and “Infiniti” lettering appeared over the showroom entrance.  A cheap temporary banner for Santa Monica Infiniti covered the GM brands at the top of the building.  About a month ago, signage reading “Santa Monica” appeared in place of the then-tattered banner.

The new "Santa Monica" lettering is nice and clear. Still no hint at any affiliation with GM.

Over the summer, I stopped at the Infiniti dealer to check into whether or not it was still a Chevy-Buick dealership. I was accosted by a slimy salesman who didn’t like the fact I was taking pictures; but, he reassured me that it was still a Chevy-Buick dealership. I drove home and checked the official websites for Chevrolet and Buick; but only Chevrolet listed the Santa Monica location as a dealer.  If I were a customer I would have been hard-pressed to find the dealer at this address. You had to look closely to see the few small GM signs around the service entrance.

That was then.  Now, today, when I checked the factory websites, neither Chevrolet nor Buick lists a Santa Monica location.  Next, I did a Google search for Santa Monica Chevrolet and found some old listings.  I called the old number: 310 828-4424 and it was answered by an operator who identified the business as “Santa Monica Auto Group.”  I asked her if they still had a Chevrolet dealership and if so what was the location. She said there was still a Chevrolet dealership and it was located on Santa Monica Blvd at Centinela Ave.  It’s like the Infiniti dealer is embarrassed by the Chevy-Buick franchise, pushing it over to a tiny, obscure parking lot on the west side of the property. Very strange.

About a month ago, a new tombstone Chevrolet sign was installed at the entrance to service.  I have yet to see either the Chevrolet or Buick logo appear on the small glass and stucco crap-box of a building.  The new Chevrolet sign says that this is still a GM “authorized dealer.”  What does it means when your location is no longer listed on the official websites of the brands you claim to represent?

This is the new Chevrolet tombstone sign recently installed to remind customers that a dealership still exists on the site. It's not very noticable unless you're stuck in westbound traffic on Santa Monica Blvd.

I took pictures of the Chevrolet-Buick “inventory.”  I didn’t see any Buicks and only about a dozen Chevys, including the two red Corvettes by the sidewalk. Now, let’s be clear: real estate is very expensive in Santa Monica and it’s extremely common for dealers to keep lots of inventory at remote, usually covered, car parks. But I’ve never seen a franchise for such a large mainstream brand like Chevrolet relegated to a dozen cars parked on a cracked, uneven, barely-paved side lot. They don’t even get showroom space – at least not the day I drove by.

You can easily see the two red Corvettes in front; but the entire "lot" is only two cars wide and about six deep.

Here's a different view of the Chevrolet "lot." The yellow stucco building in the back is a residential apartment building, so you can see how shallow the commercial lot is.

Here's a look from a distance at the Chevrolet section of the dealership. Notice that there are no signs on the service entrance to indicate anything other than Infiniti.

If this is still considered a Chevrolet-Buick franchise by someone, I think it’s the smallest one in the United States. It’s also an embarrassment to the brands and maybe that’s the reason they’ve been delisted from the corporate websites. I’d love to hear from anyone who has bought a Chevy or Buick (or any GM vehicle) from this dealer recently.

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