Published July 13. 2014 4:00AM
New London - Italian porcelain marble floors gleam underfoot and dark wood accents soar on the ceiling above at the newly renovated Secor Chrysler Dodge Jeep Ram dealership on Broad Street.
The project, three and a half years from conception to completion, leaves the dealership - formerly run by the Linder family - as the only Chrysler affiliate in the area with a drive-in service area, said owner Charlie Secor.
"It meets all of Chrysler's new standards," Secor said. "We really updated the place."
In doing so, Secor was careful to maintain the footprint of the old Linder Motors building, which originally was built in 1926 as E.B. Patterson Autos and later became a furniture store.
Secor announced in September 2010 his intention to buy out Linder, which had fallen on hard financial times in the wake of the Great Recession. Linder had operated in the city for 66 years and had occupied the Broad Street building for more than half a century.
A grand opening celebration marking completion of the renovation is planned for Friday.
During a tour of the building, Secor pointed to the well-lit, modern 10-bay service area where technicians are kept busy on a wide variety of vehicles. To one side, a two-bay repair station includes a 30,000-pound lift for medium-size trucks, including box trucks and ambulances.
Trucks are a major theme at the dealership, which is the area's only Ram ProMaster dealer. ProMaster is a new line of Chrysler box trucks, including the first one with a diesel engine.
Secor said the trucks can be transformed into vans for lodging and also can be converted into campers.
Truck sales have been soaring at the dealership, said Secor, thanks in part to the Ram 1500 being named Motor Trend's Truck of the Year for 2014.
"That's driving a lot more customers through the doors," Secor said.
Secor said Jeep sales also have been robust, and that all the related Chrysler brands taken together for the first time this year outpaced sales of Ford-related brands in Connecticut.
"Jeep has grown by leaps and bounds," he said.
Secor, who also runs Volvo, Subaru and Saab dealerships down the road on Broad Street, said the transformation of his Chrysler franchise came in stages because he couldn't close down entirely for fear of losing his license. Walls were ripped out and a modern, light-filled, open feeling pervades the space, which includes an eight-vehicle showroom.
In the service and parts area, the express drive-in service allows people to avoid the elements in inclement weather and enables technicians to check on service updates using a tablet so that personnel know what to review with customers even before they emerge from their cars.
"The customers are really excited about that," said Pete Arendt, Secor's service manager.
Customers also can take advantage of a new waiting area where they may lounge in comfort as repairs are made.
"This is a phenomenal location, right off I-95," Secor said. "New London is a good area for us."