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Dealership shifts to new Mitsubishis

Mitsubishi Motors Corp. has chosen one of the state's largest independent used-car dealers to peddle its newest cars in Pasco County.

Japan's No. 4 automaker selected Gulfview Motors Inc. for its first local franchise. Sales of the cars, which include the Mirage, Montero, Spyder and Diamante models, are scheduled to begin next month at a showroom across from Gulf View Square Mall.

For Gulfview, a 15-year-old dealership on track to bring in $70-million in revenue from sales and service this year, the move will provide entree into the new car sales business.

Although owner Leon Kreisler says he wasn't looking to get into new car sales, "it was the right opportunity, the right product, at the right time."

Kreisler anticipates that he will sell 600 to 700 new cars per year and an additional 400 used cars from trade-ins. Kreisler is adding 25 employees to his staff of 100 and pouring $2.5-million into building a new showroom and sales floor for the Mitsubishi vehicles. He still is negotiating to buy property for the new site, but plans to have it open in 18 months. Until then, Kreisler will temporarily house the 90 Mitsubishis he plans to receive next month at 9226 U.S. 19, which he is leasing. He said he has put $100,000 into refurbishing that property.

Mitsubishi has 39 other franchises in the state, including four in the Tampa Bay area, the nearest of which is at 21699 U.S. 19 in Clearwater.

Mitsubishi officials could not be reached for comment.

"They're entering a market that is already saturated with that size and type of auto," said Gary Brown, owner of Gary Brown Ford.

Tom Castriota, owner of Castriota Chevrolet, said that although it will be competition, a new car franchise will bring more car buying traffic to the area and to the rest of the dealerships.

Kreisler, 54, started his career in car sales 30 years ago, selling Chryslers and Plymouths in West Palm Beach. He came to Port Richey in 1992 to manage a Bayview Buick GMC Subaru dealership. In 1985 Kreisler struck out on his own, opening Gulfview Motors at 9932 U.S. 19. In 1996, he opened a service and reconditioning shop and two years later opened a second sales location in Spring Hill. Earlier this year, Kreisler opened a promotional sales division, under which he sells vehicles from rented spaces at other locations. In 1999, Kreisler logged $63-million in sales.

_ Staff researcher Cathy Wos contributed to this report.

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