by Larry Fugate
Posted 7/8/2013 12:00 am
One of the state’s oldest companies plans to move in late July into its newly constructed $15 million, 80,000-SF home off Interstate 530 in White Hall.
Smart Auto Group, headquartered in downtown Pine Bluff for the past 107 years, is moving a number of its dealerships to three buildings on a 15-acre site northwest of the I-530 and U.S. 270 interchange, said Roger Smart Jr., general manager.
The new Smart Auto Mall will include Cadillac, Chevrolet, Buick, General Motors and Hyundai operations currently in the 500 block of West Fifth Avenue and the Honda dealership at 3100 Auto Drive off East Harding, he said. The firm’s Chrysler, Dodge and Jeep operations will remain at 2400 E. Harding.
Smart Auto Mall will allow the company to meet image and facility requirements established by auto manufacturers, Smart explained, with state-of-the-art sales and repair facilities.
The sales and service for GM products will be housed in the largest of the three buildings, with Honda and Hyundai each occupying separate facilities, said Smart.
Smart said the Chrysler, Dodge and Jeep operations will move to the site of the current Honda facility once the latter is remodeled.
The moves are part of the company’s growth plans, Smart added, noting the firm acquired the Buick and GMC dealership at Malvern in May 2012 and the Ford franchise at Malvern in December.
Plans submitted to the White Hall Planning Commission last year called for parking for 1,100 vehicles, including 637 on display, at the Smart Auto Mall. Construction began Aug. 6.
The company will continue to operate the existing facilities on West Fifth to sell pre-owned vehicles, he said.
More than 100 jobs will be moved to White Hall, Smart said, with the number expected to grow at the Chrysler-Dodge-Jeep operation.
The Smarts have sold cars and trucks in Pine Bluff since 1906 but decided to move the majority of their new-car dealerships to White Hall because the interchange is a highly visible location and “convenient to our customers,” the general manager said. The White Hall property was purchased four years ago.
Richard L “Bubba” Smart, patriarch of the family, is still active in the business at age 88. Roger Smart Sr. and Roger Jr., Lee Smart Sr. and Lee Jr. are also active in the business, in addition to two sons-in-law, Jonathan Ross and Steven Shaner.
Roger Smart Jr., who has headed up the development of Smart Auto Mall, declined comment when asked if the Smarts are planning any additional acquisitions. “This is a big move for us ... and we have taken our time to make sure we do it right,” he said.