Smith & Watt controls two stores
Two Shelburne County car dealerships have come under one owner after Smith & Watt Ltd. in Barrington Passage bought Huskilson Chrysler Plymouth Ltd. in Shelburne.
The sale, completed earlier this month for an undisclosed sum, bolsters the competitiveness of the southwestern Nova Scotia dealerships, said Rick Watt.
“It makes the brand stronger,” Watt, a partner at Smith & Watt, said in an interview Monday, referring to the flagship Chrysler brand as well as the Dodge, Ram and Jeep brands.
“It’s harder for small businesses to survive these days but this will help us be successful. Instead of beating each other up we’re working together.”
Still, Watt admitted that the purchase of Huskilson Chrysler, now Roseway Chrysler Dodge Jeep Ram, comes with financial risks.
“It’s got to be a bit of a gamble any time you spend a fairly large amount of money … It’s somewhat of a roll of the dice.”
Watt said the original plan was to operate Roseway Chrysler as a sub-dealership, or a branch of Smith & Watt, to cut down on the costs.
But after consulting with Chrysler Group LLC, one of the big three American automobile manufacturers, Smith & Watt decided to keep both locations as full dealerships.
Watt said all the workers will keep their jobs, noting that a new technician has already been hired at the Roseway Chrysler location.
John Huskilson joined Huskilson Chrysler, started by his father in 1974, about 30 years ago and took over the dealership with his brother, Peter Huskilson, a decade ago.
He said the sale will allow him to slow down and enter semi-retirement.
“It has been increasingly more difficult for a small dealership like ours to compete,” Huskilson said in an interview. “There is no question that the loss of employment in smaller communities hurts smaller dealerships.”
Huskilson said he first approached Smith & Watt about a possible deal but that the timing was mutual.
He said bringing the two dealerships under one owner will be beneficial to the community and make the dealerships more competitive.
“If we can hang on long enough, it looks like Shelburne has a good future coming with Cooke Aquaculture supposedly building a plant here, Shelburne Ship Repair taking some of the Halifax Shipyard work, and offshore oil picking up.”
Watt said year-to-date vehicle sales have slid slightly compared to 2012, but have still been good.
And he’s optimistic that a strong Chrysler lineup will boost sales in the coming months.
Both dealerships noted that the best-selling vehicle is the Ram pickup truck, followed by the family-vehicle staple, the Dodge Grand Caravan.
Launched by his grandfather and grandfather’s brother-in-law in 1930, Watt joined the family dealership 39 years ago.
Watt said the dealership is still owned and operated by the two families. He said keen interest among several family members in the car dealership business helped spur the purchase of the second Chrysler location.