If the old saying that good things comes in threes is true, Hill is ready to have a good year in 2018 with three new 2019 models to sell.
1. Already on site is the BMW X2 sport-utility vehicle, a sporty version of the X1 that shares the same chassis but sits lower to the ground and has other styling and engineering differences from the X1 with which it shares a chassis. The model for now is a demonstrator for sales training and for customers to examine, and orders already are being taken and more should arrive as the weather warms. It sells in the neighborhood of $70,000.
2. The third generation Porche Cayenne, which will sell around $75,000, is due out in June.
3. The new Mercedes CLS53, due out later this year, is a technological jump Hill said may revolutionize electric-gas hybrid fuel efficiency. The 48-volt system will use a 3-liter straight 6 motor with no belt driven alternator, water pump or air conditioning. Instead, those things will be power by electricity, with the starter/generator between the motor and the transmission working with brake regeneration to provide electricty.
He said the new Mercedes will have 70 percent of the hybrid performance advantages with only 30 percent of the cost, selling in the area around $50,000.
All three models will be 2019 models, which he said he hopes will match the opening year for the new locations he plans for his import-selling operations.
If things go as planned, Hill will move his Rick Hill Imports, which encompasses Rick Hill BMW, Mercedes-Benz of Kingsport and Rick Hill Porsche, out to Tri-Cities Crossings near the interchange of Interstates 26 and 81. Meade Tractor last year moved to that area, and other dealers also plan to or are considering moving there.
“I would expect to have neighbors. I would be surprised if it didn’t,” Hill said Feb. 16. He said the Toyota and Lexus dealerships, also a part of the Hill family of dealerships but managed by his nephew, have to get permission from the car makers to move. Hill already has that permission from BMW and Mercedes. He also managed Don Hill Pontiac, a legacy dealership that sells used cars, but said he is not sure that one will move because its market is more local than the import dealerships.
“We’ve got the plans well underway,” Hill said. “It needs to be as early as we can in ‘19.” He said construction should be relatively quick since most of the excavation needed on the Stewart Taylor-owned property has been done.
“Once we get started, it will really take form,” Hill said. “I think it’s important to use to make it tangible.” Hill and his employees make no secret of the impending move and have not for more than a years, telling customers if they asked about it. Hill said the planning and vision for the move goes back to 2011 but that until Mercedes approved the move in January and BMW late last year, he wasn’t as actively pushing and promoting the move.
“If you don’t have factory approval, you may not have anything to talk about,” Hill said.
The operation will be in the northwest quadrant of the site, on the Kingsport side, and visit from both interstates. It is not, he said, the large billboard area that is marketing the site. Folks on 81 will take Exit 56, and those on 26 will get a 81 for a brief time and take Exit 56, he said.
Hill predicted the move will not be unlike how most dealerships moved from downtown Kingsport out to Stone Drive, mostly in the 1960s and 1970s.
“Everything was downtown. It was progress when they moved out then, and it is progress now,” Hill said. “I think it will change the way people look at Kingsport when we move out there. It will take a while.” He said that in the late 1960s and early 1970s, it took a while for most of the car dealers to migrate to Stone Drive. The last new car dealer to do so was Fairway Ford on Lynn Garden Drive but now on the eastern end of Stone Drive.
He said Tri-Cities Crossing is perfectly situation to serve not only the Kingsport area but the entire region, and he said it will make import sales more visible and accessible for folks outside the Kingsport area while keeping the business handy for Kingpsort customers.
“It won’t be immediately a replication of The Pinnacle,” Hill said of the booming retail development off Interstate 81 in Bristol, Tenn. However, with 26 the busiest thoroughfare in the region and 81 brinnging a fair share of traffic, Hill predicted the area would be a draw for a five-state region of southeast Kentucky, West Virginia, Southwest Virginia, northeastern North Carolina and Northeast Tennessee.
Like the Pinnacle, plans are for restaurants and other retail, Hill said.
“I think it’s a great development for Kingsport,” Hill said. “I really do.”