Category Archives: Automobile industry

You don’t say

“Don’t ever let anyone tell you that an English or dance degree won’t provide you with tangible skills.”

Aaron Wirtz of Subaru of Wichita on the music video parody he made of the union protest against the dealership

You don’t say

“Too much #Shocker Spirit? Guilty!”

– A Facebook post from Subaru of Wichita, which has changed its response to a union “shame on” sign by putting up a new sign saying, “For excessive Shocker spirit”

Subaru of Wichita gets worldwide attention for response to union sign

WICHITA — Subaru of Wichita is getting the proverbial kind of advertising that money can’t buy since it retaliated against the “Shame on Subaru” sign the United Brotherhood Of Carpenters And Joiners Of America Local 201 planted in front of the dealership last week.

“It’s been a wild ride,” says Aaron Wirtz, who handles marketing and media for Subaru.

As Have You Heard? reported last week, the union is upset with Subaru for not hiring a union contractor for part of a remodeling job. Subaru responded with its own sign that plays off the “Shame” by saying, “For having unbeatable prices.” It also took to the Internet to share its side of the situation.

Since the story has been picked up by other news outlets, Wirtz says the dealership on East Kellogg has been inundated with attention from around the world. That included an interview that Fox News did with Wirtz on Wednesday morning.

“Can you believe that?” he says.

Wirtz says while the attention has been great, it’s not necessarily going to translate into selling a lot more cars. He points to an e-mail from someone in New Zealand.

“In the case of New Zealand, we’re probably not going to ship a new Subaru there,” he says. “However, I do feel like this has worked out about as good as it could have.”

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Subaru of Wichita responds to ‘Shame on Subaru’ sign with one of its own

suburuWICHITA — Labor dispute signs have been popping up at all kinds of businesses and nonprofits in the last couple of years, but Subaru of Wichita appears to be the first business to fight back.

“To be accused of desecrating the American way of life, we’re going to take a little bit of exception to that,” says Aaron Wirtz, who handles marketing and media for Subaru.

Earlier this week, the United Brotherhood Of Carpenters And Joiners Of America Local 201 began a protest in front of the dealership, which is on East Kellogg between Greenwich and 127th Street.

Subaru is in the process of a $1.5 million update to transform the property to the Subaru brand from the previous Suzuki brand that was there.

Wirtz says in addition to hiring a local architect on the project, Subaru hired Wichita’s Key Construction as its contractor. He says Key then hired Hi-Tech Interiors, a local nonunion firm, to do a small portion of drywall work.

In response, the Carpenters union now has people manning a “Shame on Subaru of Wichita” sign on an easement in front of the dealership.

“While we’re certainly not happy to see that, we were kind of unsurprised,” Wirtz says.

In response, Subaru now has a sign that plays off the “Shame” by saying, “For having unbeatable prices.” It also says “indisputable” in a couple of places on the sign.

Wirtz says Subaru respects the union’s right to protest.

“We’ve actually given them lunch. We’ve invited them to visit our facilities.”

Wirtz says he’s convinced the people with the sign are simply hired by the union to stand there.

“It doesn’t really look like they want to be here anymore than we want them to be here, to be quite frank.”

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Lubbers East in Andover has closed

WICHITA — After about a dozen years in business, Lubbers East in Andover has closed.

“We moved out there in 2002, and we had some pretty good years,” says Denny Lubbers.

He and his brothers own Lubbers Ford and Lubbers Chevrolet in Cheney and Lubbers Hutchinson.

The Andover dealership opened in leased space at the northwest corner of Kellogg and Andover Road and then moved just west of that site a couple of years later when Kwik Shop wanted the space.

“It was still fine,” Lubbers says of business.

“In the last few years … it’s gone downhill for whatever reason,” he says. “I don’t think we’ve lost our passion or desire to do business over there, but it started to become a drain on our profitability.”

Lubbers says he thinks bigger dealerships in the area hurt his business because car shoppers would rather go somewhere with larger selections.

“We tried some different things,” he says of trying to increase business.

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Rusty Eck Ford pitchman can no longer save you any money

Craig Minten and his horse, Holy Ransom, in Saratoga, N.Y.

Craig Minten and his horse, Holy Ransom, in Saratoga, N.Y.

WICHITA — Craig Minten can no longer save you any money, at least not at Rusty Eck Ford.

Minten says he resigned his position as general manager after seven years. He also was the face of the dealership and was known for saying, “If you don’t come see me today, I can’t save you any money.”

“Everybody is sad, and they loved me as their coach,” Minten says of his sales team at the dealership.

He knows that’s not necessarily the version of his departure that’s making the rounds.

“I’ve heard about 100 different versions,” Minten says. “I heard that I was in Thailand today, so … .”

He’s now starting his own marketing and advertising business, which is yet to be named.

“I’m getting too old for the car lot,” Minten says.

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Mid-America Auto Auction sells to Bryan Hunt and his Hunt Automotive Group

WICHITA — Mid-America Auto Auction, which has been in Wichita since about the 1940s, has sold.

New owner Bryan Hunt, son of trucking magnate J.B. Hunt, has purchased the business and is renaming it I-135 Auto Auctions.

Hunt has Hunt Automotive Group in Springdale, Ark.

“We were approached by these guys, and (they) wanted to know if we were interested in selling,” says Brook Phillips, who owned the business with his brother, Brad.

“My brother and I were both raised in the business,” Brook Phillips says.

Their father purchased the wholesale auto auction at 4716 S. Santa Fe in 1982.

“This is all we’ve ever done,” Phillips says. “It looked like an opportunity for us to do something else.”

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Auto-Motion to open in former Shelton Collision Repair space

WICHITA — A new automotive shop is going to open in Derby at 122 N. Georgie, which was home to Shelton Collision Repair for more than three decades until its recent move.

Casey Kallhoff, who has worked for Advance Auto Parts for the last five years, is opening Auto-Motion.

“I just wanted to … have my own business,” Kallhoff says.

He says he and his staff of four will work on all makes and models but will specialize on later-model vehicles.

Kallhoff is leasing about 6,000 square feet of the 8,600-square-foot space.

“It will be huge,” he says. “We’ve got a lot of room to grow and add things and get bigger in the future.”

Grant Glasgow of NAI Martens handled the lease.

Auto-Motion will open in early January.

Kallhoff says Shelton Collision Repair will use the remainder of the building as overflow from its new shop, which is at 325 W. Patriot.

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State closes Vision Doctors and Showroom Automotive for failure to pay taxes

UPDATED — The Kansas Department of Revenue and Alcoholic Beverage Control seized assets of two businesses on Tuesday.

According to a news release, the state closed four Vision Doctors sites, including offices in Wichita, Derby, Goddard and Wellington, for what it says is $229,981 in back taxes.

The state also closed Showroom Automotive in Haysville for what it says is $11,294 in unpaid sales tax.

The state issued a follow-up release today to say that it allowed Vision Doctors to reopen “after the owner submitted missing tax returns for the business periods on the warrants. The income tax warrants are still in effect.”

Neither Michael Gordon with Vision Doctors nor Samuel A. Valdez or Samuel J. Valdez with Showroom Automotive could be reached for comment.

The release says assets from both of the businesses will be sold at auction to pay the taxes.

Mike’s Bikes moves to larger space; Mike Steven Mitsubishi gets expanded car lot

Bike enthusiast Mike Steven on one of his Mike’s Bikes.

WICHITA — Car dealer Mike Steven is frank about why he started Mike’s Bikes a decade ago.

“It was mostly just for fun more than anything,” he says of selling electric bicycles and motor scooters.

“I’ve been fooling around with it more than anything for the last 10 years.”

That’s changed, though.

“Now we’re getting serious about it.”

The business had been in a small building at Mike Steven Mitsubishi just east of Kellogg and Woodlawn.

“It really wasn’t much of a display,” Steven says. “We didn’t have a good location.”

The business now is in the building immediately west of there where Midwest Kia used to be. The new space is vastly bigger, which Steven says is crucial for the business.

“It takes a lot more room than I thought it would.”

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