Akron’s Middlebury neighborhood is now home to a new-car showroom featuring two Italian luxury brands where price tags can easily approach — and exceed — $100,000.
Ganley Automotive has added Maserati and Alfa Romeo franchises to its East Market Street campus, which also features a newly expanded and renovated Mercedes-Benz dealership next to its Toyota showroom.
The addition and changes reflect in large part Ganley’s faith in the future of the neighborhood, which ranks among the poorer places in Akron.
“We opened in 1995,” said Ken Ganley, head of the large automotive group. That year, the expansion-minded, family-owned business bought the former Geller Toyota and Mercedes-Benz franchises on East Market Street.
At that time, probably no one envisioned what that part of East Market Street would look like now, Ganley said. Among the major changes since then, Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. sold off its corporate campus and built a new global headquarters nearby, with its former buildings renovated and repurposed into the East End housing and office space. As part of that, a Hilton Garden Inn was built several years ago next to the Ganley campus, and in the parking lot between the new hotel and the renovated Goodyear Hall new coffee and ice cream shops are nearing completion.
And Ganley Automotive also expanded its Toyota and Mercedes-Benz showrooms.
Ganley said he expects additional positive changes in the neighborhood in upcoming years as well.
The newest high-horsepower additions to the dealership campus are called Maserati of Akron and Alfa Romeo of Akron; both fall under the Ganley Automotive Imports umbrella. (While this is Ganley Automotive’s first Maserati franchise, it sells Alfa Romeos at another dealership in Bedford.)
“I was approached by the manufacturer” about adding the brands, Ganley said. “They wanted a presence in the Akron-Canton market.”
First Akron venture
The sporty and luxurious Alfa Romeo and Maserati brands are owned by Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, and this marks Maserati’s first venture into Akron, said a spokesman for Fiat Chrysler.
The two Akron franchises will be in the same showroom that formerly was used for pre-owned Ganley Automotive vehicles; that building is being renovated and expanded to include a new service department and service bays at the rear.
“Constructionwise, we should be done in six months,” said Alan Fejes II, general sales manager for the two luxury franchises.
While the work goes on, the high-end vehicles are for sale now.
The first two Maserati sales came from previous Mercedes-Benz customers, with one of the vehicles costing more than $160,000, Ganley said.
Alfa Romeo sale prices start in the $40,000 range, while Maseratis start in the $70,000 range and climb from there, Ganley said.
“Alfa Romeo will be a higher volume brand for us. Maserati will be a lower volume brand,” Ganley said. “They are a nice complement to each other.”
Customers so far have come from places that include Hudson, Bath Township and Canton, Fejes said. “We pull from a pretty good area,” he said.
Once the showroom is completed, Ganley said the business plan calls for having an average of 60 Alfa Romeos and 20 Maseratis on the lot.
Fiat Chrysler checked out and liked the East Market Street campus as a place to sell its sporty, luxury vehicles, Ganley said. One selling point is the site’s easy access to and from nearby Interstate 76.
The two Italian brands, while known globally, are definitely not mass market.
Alfa Romeo sold 345 cars in Northeast Ohio last year, according to figures from the Greater Cleveland Automobile Association. Still, that was a significant improvement from 150 sales in 2017.
Maserati, meanwhile, sold 91 vehicles last year, down from 108 in 2017, according to the dealers’ group.
Fiat Chrysler last summer announced plans to significantly invest in Alfa Romeo and Maserati to boost sales and remain competitive against car makers such as Audi, BMW and Mercedes.
Maserati is Fiat Chrysler’s sole ultra-premium brand and it is expected in upcoming years its models will show off advanced technology and electrification, said Berj Alexanian, company spokesman.
“By 2022, we will introduce new vehicles into segments we’re not in today and every Maserati will either be all-new or have been completely redesigned compared to the current showroom lineup,” he said.
Ganley Automotive also just completed a $1.5 million expansion of its Mercedes-Benz building, Ganley said. The work, completed just weeks ago, included adding service bays and more showroom space, he said.
The Mercedes expansion and two new high-end vehicle brands have created new jobs, Ganley said. The dealership group hired additional technicians, sales staff and others in 2018 to keep up with its growth, he said.
“It was a busy '18,” Ganley said. “Business is great. We had our ninth straight record year since '09. … It’s been a good run. Each year we’re the largest vehicle retailer in Ohio.”
The automotive group also purchased a Toyota dealership in Pittsburgh and added other showrooms in Norwalk, Columbus and Cleveland, he said.
“Our home will always be Northeast Ohio,” Ganley said.
Jim Mackinnon covers business and county government. He can be reached at 330-996-3544 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him @JimMackinnonABJ on Twitter or www.facebook.com/JimMackinnonABJ