ROGERSVILLE — Morristown auto dealer Leroy Royston had many customers coming to his store from Hawkins County, so when Hawkins County’s only new car dealership went up for sale a few months ago, he jumped on it.
On Tuesday, Royston and his son, Chad Royston, finalized the purchase of the former Metro Auto Group on Highway 11-W on the east end of Rogersville, and Wednesday was their official first day as the new owners.
The Chrysler/Chevrolet/Jeep dealership will now be called Royston of Rogersville and will be managed by Chad Royston.
The Roystons have actually been operating the Rogersville dealership for about two months under the previous owners, getting their feet wet in their new territory. Now that the sale has been finalized, their plan is to restore the dealership to its former glory.
“I grew up in this area in Hancock County, and I have a dealership in Morristown where we get a lot of business out of Hawkins County. So when this (Rogersville dealership) became available it was just a natural thing for us,” Leroy Royston told the Times-News Thursday. “We’ll definitely increase the inventory a whole lot, and of course with us being the only new car franchise dealer in the area we hope to really capitalize by doing service on all General Motors products, along with Chrysler, Dodge, Jeeps and off brands as well — Ford, imports, whatever. We do plan to offer service facilities for all makes and models.”
Metro Auto Group purchased the former Larry Vickers Auto Group dealership in May 2006, only a couple of months after Vickers was found shot to death at a car wash he owned not far from the dealership. After Vickers’ death, customers noticed a substantial reduction in inventory at the dealership.
Leroy Royston said that’s about to change.
“That’s one of the reasons probably that they weren’t as successful with it as they’d hoped to be — not as much variety,” he said. “Of course, the previous owner is in the funeral home business in the Tri-Cities area, and he really just wanted to concentrate more of his time, energy and effort into his car business.
“He just didn’t have time that he felt he needed to put in there to make it successful.”
Chad Royston will oversee the day-to-day operation in Rogersville. He said there’s going to be an emphasis on offering cars that get good gas mileage, although they will still offer the familiar stock of trucks and sport utility vehicles that have been the dealership’s bread and butter for years.
Auto dealerships are feeling the pain of the current gas crunch as much, if not more, than any other business. Chad Royston said that’s why car dealers like himself and his father must always be prepared to adapt.
“We’re being really aggressive to address this fuel crisis, and one thing Chrysler is really pushing is the $2.99 gas guarantee, which locks in the customer’s gas at $2.99 per gallon for the next three years,” Chad Royston said. “General Motors is coming out with something in the near future to mirror that offer, and along those lines our service department will service and maintain all makes and models to ensure that you’re getting peak gas mileage out of your car. And we want to give somebody a good deal so they’re saving money to offset the cost of what’s going in the gas tank.”
He added that within a few years domestic auto manufacturers will have caught up with foreign car makers in the fuel economy department, and that’s when he believes this investment in Rogersville is really going to begin paying dividends.
It may be a couple of months before the new inventory arrives, although Chad Royston said he’s already ordered 35 new Chrysler vehicles. There’s still a lot of work to do before the dealership is up to full speed, including changing out the old Metro Auto Group signs in front of the showroom.
An official grand opening is expected to be scheduled sometime in mid-July.