Philly used-car dealer to open Cranberry lot

| Tuesday, Feb. 7, 2012

A no-haggle used car dealer that says it's the largest-volume operation in the Philadelphia area is moving west, with plans to open a Cranberry location this month.

CarSense advertises like-new, low-mileage cars and said it will have more used cars on its Route 19 lot than most other local dealers. That means about 300 to start, transported from the company's eastern Pennsylvania lots or bought for the site, CEO Gene Niconovich said Monday.

The concept differs from most stand-alone or dealer-connected used car lots. "The one most significant thing is that this is a one-price facility. The car is pre-discounted," he said.

CarSense's new location at 21200 Route 19 spans about 15 acres, big enough to accommodate 750 to 800 cars. Customers will be able to browse the lot, organized into sections for sport utility vehicles, mid-size sedans and convertibles, for example. Or they can use computerized kiosks inside the office to search for cars at other CarSense locations, Niconovich said.

The company was founded 1996 in Uwchland, near Coatesville, and has locations in Hatfield and in Mt. Holly, N.J. Niconovich wouldn't disclose the privately held company's sales figures.

Niconovich said CarSense considered locations nationwide for expansion, but with the three Philadelphia-area dealerships, "It seemed natural to go to the next major city in Pennsylvania."

The Cranberry location has an occupancy permit, but still needs a state license and should open by mid-February, he said. About 30 sales and service personnel will work there at first, but that could grow to 75 to 100 in a few years, he said.

Mick Wolcott, who owns Dodge, Chrysler and Jeep dealerships in Ross and Robinson, isn't bothered by the competition. "I think it's great," he said, reasoning that a new player in the mix sparks interest in car shopping, and thus drives traffic to all the local lots.

His concern with CarSense and a used-car auction planned for the former Showcase Cinemas site in Robinson is that they'll buy up large quantities of vehicles. Used cars have been in tight supply in recent years, and more shortages could lead to higher prices, he said.

Most cars on CarSense's current lots have fewer than 30,000 miles, and have been reconditioned. CarSense will buy any car from consumers, but keeps just 1 in 50 for resale on one of its lots, Niconovich said.

CarSense said its sales process is designed to be quick and easy. Customers can return a car within five days of purchase, and vehicles come with six-month guarantees -- and lifetime guarantees for the engines. Customers within 50 miles of a CarSense lot can order a car online, have it delivered in an enclosed trailer and have it picked up if they don't like it.

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