Nfld. & Labrador

$20M car dealership expansion signalling growth in N.L., owner says

Shiny new dealership, $20-million expansion are among signs of a healthy auto industry, one dealer says.

Nissan deal among moves hinting at healthy auto industry

Rick O'Neill, owner of O'Neill Nissan, is placing bets on a thriving auto industry in the near future so he can recoup the cost of a $20-million expansion. (CBC)

Shiny new dealerships and a multimillion-dollar expansion are signalling a healthy auto industry in Newfoundland and Labrador, according to one dealer.

Rick O'Neill, owner of O'Neill Nissan, says sales are so strong he's moving to a new location after nearly four decades at the same spot on Topsail Road in Mount Pearl.

"We've outgrown our facility so we've had to increase the size of it," O'Neill said.

"I think our industry is healthy.… Newfoundland has not seen the downturn in Canada, which was only minimal at best," he said.

"Newfoundland seems to be flying along pretty well."

Ground broke at the new expansion location of Capital Hyundai last year, with Premier Dwight Ball suggesting then that the build pointed to economic growth. (Eddy Kennedy/CBC)

The move to a nearby location in Mount Pearl will cost O'Neill $20 million, but given the growth he anticipates, that's an investment risk he's willing to take.

The old Nissan location will either be flattened or renovated to house a Jaguar, Land Rover and Volvo dealership — a move that meant snapping up more land on top of the seven acres he purchased for the new Nissan dealership.

O'Neill isn't the only dealer placing a bet on continued growth in the province.

Volkswagen is set to open a location on Kelsey Drive, while Capital Auto Group broke ground on an expansion last year, prompting Premier Dwight Ball to suggest soaring car sales are a sign the province is pulling out of an economic slump.

But there's another reason sales might be growing — and it may simply indicate that cars are a necessity in the province, downturn or not.

"Newfoundlanders have got to have cars. We don't have a mass transit system. Anybody who's employed drives back and forth to work," O'Neill said.

Regardless of why, he's confident in the choice to expand.

"The car industry, I think, is fine.… I don't see anything wrong with it. I think you'll see big things coming out with the oil and gas again starting to pick up again next year." 

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

With files from Cec Haire


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