Market is up, and Austin's Woods Fun Center is hiring

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It’s not just the off-road vehicle inventory at Woods Fun Center that can navigate any terrain. The Austin, Texas, dealership is adjusting to market conditions with a hiring burst.

The dealership, a former Top 100 Dealer, started by creating the position of used vehicle buyer, and will continue later this month with a sales job fair.

“We’re making a big push for used product this year. We buy them outright,” said GM Cary Glandt. The new used-bike buyer, hired last fall, reportedly runs around the area all day, buying up used motorcycles.

Indeed, things seem to be looking up for the store, which had to endure not only the nationwide market downturn but a devastating fire a few years ago. Today, sales is showing signs of new life across all vehicle types.

“We’re seeing really good signs in January,” Glandt told Dealernews. “Our last five months we’ve been up considerably.”

The sales burst hasn’t been concentrated in any one vehicle type. Woods Fun Center keeps about 200 vehicles – motorcycles, ATVs, SSVs, scooters, PWC, and even boats, plus generators and pumps – from Honda, Suzuki, Yamaha, Polaris and BRP on the showroom floor.

Glandt took over store management in 2007, when new inventory was still plentiful.

“The manufacturers were pushing a lot of inventory,” Glandt said. “The prices were lower, so the gap between new and used pricing was not as big.”

When the recession hit, OEMs reined in shipments, making new vehicles scarce and increasing demand for used (and in some cases repossessed) vehicles. For a while, repossession auctions helped drive down prices, but that trend is stabilizing.

A recent search on Woods’ website turned up 82 used vehicles. It’s a profitable segment in a college town, where students may move in, ride a vehicle for a few years while attending school, then sell when they go home or off to jobs elsewhere.

Demand is high enough that Woods Fun Center will hold a job fair from 6 to 8 p.m. Jan. 25 for sales associates in vehicles and PG&A. Glandt said the store will probably hire as many as 25 people by spring.

“For good people they are permanent jobs; for so-so people probably just seasonal,” he said. “They are commission jobs so people who are good at it can sustain themselves during the winter.”

Back from the ashes. Think back to April 2010 when the dealership's future wasn’t so bright. Employees who saw smoke outside one evening ran out and discovered a shed behind the main building was on fire. The blaze gobbled up $1.2 million in recently acquired inventory stacked in crates. The loss was insured.

“I thought we were going to lose three or four motorcycles. When the fire department got here it looked like no big deal, but it burned so hot they just couldn’t get it out. I never knew that a motorcycle could burn down to a thing about the size of a coffee cup,” Glandt said.“It affected us for probably the rest of the year. People thought we were out of business.”

Luckily, some fuel storage tanks nearby were spared. If the fire had spread to them, he says, “at that point we would have lost the showroom.”

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