GRAND RAPIDS — It was déja vu all over again. For the second straight year, the Michigan International Auto Show told a new Saab story last week at the Grand Center.
Just before showtime last year, DP Fox Ventures LLC revealed that it had bought Keenan Saab and then debuted its new dealership, Fox Saab, at the local show.
This year, the diversified investment and management firm owned by Dan and Pamella DeVo expanded its auto show presence by unveiling the newly formed Fox Motor Group. That group includes a recently relocated Fox Saab and the former Dale Baker Hyundai-Isuzu dealership at 3060 Broadmoor SE.
The company disclosed it bought the business from Baker the week before the auto show, and moved Fox Saab to Broadmoor Avenue before the flashy event opened.
“Dale Baker and his team have built one of the premier dealerships in West Michigan over the past 26 years,” said Dan DeVos, DP Fox president and CEO.
“By combining these elements with the established quality and innovation of Saab, we believe we have an outstanding total product line and an outstanding sales and service team supporting it.”
DP Fox Executive Vice President and COO David Green told the Business Journal that relocating its Saab dealership from 3340 South Division to the nine-acre Broadmoor site was the driving force behind the purchase.
“I think what really led the acquisition was the chance to relocate Saab from South Division closer to the East Beltline area,” said Green. “We were in the hunt for a new home for Saab, and, at that time, began conversations with the Bakers.”
Green said Saab sales have been good over the past year. But the firm felt that it had to move the dealership closer to the Beltline to give it more visibility, which should mean more sales. Green said Saab felt that way, too.
“We agreed with Saab that in order to reach the Saab customer better, we needed to be closer to the East Beltline and closer to our customers. Division has a great and long history, but we just think the product outgrew the location,” he said of the street more widely known for used car lots.
Increasing sales of the Hyundai line of fuel-efficient and affordable cars, along with the prospect of even higher gasoline prices this summer, also played key roles in the deal.
“It’s an attractive auto that’s priced right. It has a very good record as far as the quality of the vehicle is concerned,” said Green. “Also, it has great fuel economy. With what we have been facing lately, we think it’s a good opportunity.
“These are great cars,” he added about the Hyundai line. “We’re pretty excited about this opportunity. We think that with some more energy and advertising focused on growing that site and that brand, we can increase our numbers even more so.”
DP Fox bought Keenan Saab almost a year ago to the date it purchased the Baker dealership.
Brian Keenan started the business in 1980, and built it into the largest Saab dealership between Detroit and Chicago.
Fox Saab General Manager Joe Niewiek will continue to oversee that operation, while Dale Baker General Manager Jack Savino will do the same for the Hyundai-Isuzu business.
“Fox Motor Group is the overall umbrella company. Underneath that is Fox Hyundai, Fox Saab and Fox Isuzu. That’s the way it is organized now,” said Green.
Terms of the deal were not disclosed.
Longtime local businessman Dale Baker opened his Oldsmobile dealership in 1975. He added Isuzu seven years later, and then added Hyundai a little more than seven years ago.
“It’s naturally difficult to leave something after developing it and making it your focus each day,” said Baker of the sale.
“At the same time, I am very pleased to be able to leave it in good hands with DP Fox.”