HOLIDAY — Rabbits and Beetles have arrived in Pasco County.
Kelly Volkswagen, the only Volkswagen dealership on the North Suncoast, has opened for business at 3102 U.S. 19, between Moog Road and Sunray Drive.
"We think the future is bright in that neighborhood," said Kelly Hassan, the 42-year-old owner of the new dealership. The 19,700-square-foot dealership features a two-story showroom, a 12-bay service center, 30 employees and an inventory of 100 new cars and 30 used cars.
Hassan said his market includes people looking for smaller, fuel-efficient cars with prices comparable to popular Honda and Toyota models. Jettas and Rabbits, for instance, are in the $15,000 to $20,000 range.
While U.S. car sales are at their lowest in a decade, Germany's Volkswagen is bucking the trend. The company's American subsidiary says its March 2008 sales were up 13 percent over its March 2007 sales.
Hassan pointed out his Holiday dealership's opening comes as the automaker goes into an aggressive "growth mode" here.
Volkswagen plans to more than triple its sales in this country over the next decade through marketing and by taking advantage of growing demand for cleaner diesel fuel. The company has said its goal is to sell 1-million vehicles annually by 2018.
Volkswagen is introducing diesel versions this year that will meet emissions standards in all 50 states. Every dealership, including Kelly, will have the updated diesel models by August, Hassan said.
Hassan, who lives in Lutz with his wife and son, has been in the automotive industry for nearly 20 years. He and Tampa car dealer Jason Kuhn were formerly investors in a Pasco County Ford dealership though he said he's only involved in the Volkswagen dealership now.
Kelly Volkswagen has been in the planning and building stages for nearly four years. When he launched the plans, Hassan acknowledged, economic times were better.
But he noted Tampa Bay area car sales had not been affected as much as sales in other areas. And he said he's taking a longer view of economic cycles.
"I'm one of guys who sees the glass half full," he said. "We're a great country that bounces back. We're optimistic about where it's going to go."
Jodie Tillman can be reached at email@example.com or (727) 869-6247.