By Tony Wittkowski | Business Reporter | The Herald-Palladium
BENTON TOWNSHIP — Signature Automotive Group is prepping for an expansion this spring at its Napier Avenue location.
The Benton Township dealership, which sells Toyota, Hyundai and Mitsubishi brands, is using two acres of land to create a Used Car Super Center that will be anchored in a Mitsubishi showroom.
Bill Crowder, general manager for Signature Automotive, said they have already begun site prep work which will continue through winter. He said the expansion is about a $200,000 investment.
“We’ve owned the two acres in property for a more than a decade, but decided to put it to good use,” Crowder said. “We’ll use the Mitsubishi portion, which is our westernmost point, as a showroom for the Used Car Super Center. We’ll also be expanding our inventory by purchasing another half a million dollars in used cars.”
Workers are taking out trees, digging out top soil, putting in the sewer drains and laying a gravel base.
While the prep work is expected to be done by the end of the year, Crowder said they are pushing for the Used Car Super Center to be running by April 1. However, the time frame depends on the winter weather.
He said the goal of the expansion is to create the largest used car selection in Berrien County.
“The used car market is strong since there’s obviously a need with the number of people we get looking,” Crowder said. “We have a great market between Benton Harbor, St. Joseph and the surrounding communities. We would like to tap into that.”
Signature Automotive already sells cars, but Crowder said the expansion would put the car dealership “over the top.”
Site plans for the expansion have been in the works for the past six months. However, Crowder said he’s considered the build-out for well over a year.
In addition to creating four new jobs for the Used Car Super Center, Signature Automotive will also be expanding all brands. This includes stocking more Chevrolet, Ford and Dodge trucks and luxury brand products for vehicles like Lexus.
Building Inspector Tom Baldwin said the township reviewed the expansion with Crowder and directed him to the right departments.
“What they’ve done over there the past 12 or 15 years as they’ve expanded the dealership and their product line is amazing,” Baldwin said Monday. “It’s certainly a boon for the township.”
This isn’t the first time Signature Automotive has added onto its Benton Township location.
According to Herald-Palladium archives, Signature Automotive set up shop on the corner of Napier Avenue and Union Street in 1989, where a showroom building for Mitsubishi and Hyundai was added in 2004. Then came a $2 million investment for a 13,500-square-foot addition in 2007, in which the dealer’s existing building was also renovated.
(Author’s Note: This article was originally published on Dec. 6, 2016)