By John Lindt
VISALIA– CarMax has filed a preliminary plan with the City of Visalia to oplen a location on Mooney Boulevard. Fresno developer Jim Shehadey, the developer of the proposed shopping center, did not return calls for comment.
CarMax is the United States’ largest used-car retailer and a Fortune 500 company. CarMax was launched by the founder of Circuit City. There are some 195 CarMax locations in 95 media markets including both Bakersfield and Fresno.
Rumored to be interested in Visalia for a decade, the company has sought a Mooney location with high traffic count along a retail corridor, rather than the traditional auto sales area on both the eastern and western ends of town. That is where, at least in the past, the city encouraged theses type uses.
More than a decade ago Visalia said it would no longer encourage auto-related sales along the Mooney strip. In this case City Manager Randy Groom says ”it may be a technicality but this application address is along the Visalia Parkway, not Mooney.” But he says the City Council may have to make the decision.
The used car market has been disrupted by new entries like Carvana, boosting on-line sales to your door, now available in the Visalia marketplace as of April 4, 2019.
CarMax is also looking to open store in Stockton. Press reports there quote a CarMax representative who described the company’s business model: “If customers don’t like the choice of vehicles onsite, they can go online to Carmax.com, request a model from the inventory, and the company will bring that particular vehicle to the Stockton dealership for a test drive, with no obligation to purchase. In addition, CarMax will offer free appraisals and buy vehicles, even if customers don’t buy a vehicle in return.”
Jeff Michael, director of the Center for Business and Policy Research at University of the Pacific, told the paper there that CarMax has changed the way consumers purchase vehicles over the past 20 years and doesn’t think the company’s presence in Stockton would be as disruptive as it once might have been.
“The way people are buying things like retail and even cars now, is different than it was two decades ago,” he said. “The internet has changed people’s shopping habits, and CarMax is definitely making it easier for people to purchase the car they want.”
Visalia car dealer Don Groppetti says he is skeptical about Carvana and other on-line used car businesses wondering how they will secure the number cars they say to meet future growth projections promised to investors. “We don’t do much with used cars” says Groppetti, the city’s largest multi-brand dealer.
John Lindt is the publisher of Sierra2theSea.net, an online newspaper covering California’s Central Valley and Central Coast.