Planned development

An artist’s rendering of the planned $10 million, 85,000-square-foot development for McRee Ford in Dickinson.

COURTESY ART

DICKINSON — With some of the industry’s toughest years in the rearview mirror and strong signs of growth on the road ahead, McRee Ford is planning a $10 million building to replace its existing one at 2800 Interstate 45.

The 85,000-square-foot development will include a showroom and repair facility under one roof and comes as Houston region dealers, including those in Galveston County, are enjoying the highest sales since 2007, just before a national recession put car sales in the ditch.

Mitchell Dale, whose family opened McRee Ford in 1947, points to rapid growth on the mainland, the strength of automaker Ford and confidence in the future as reasons to invest in a new building.

“I don’t think there’s anywhere in the Houston market that looks brighter than northern Galveston County,” Dale said.

It wasn’t so long ago that FM 646, north of the dealership, was still a cow pasture, Dale said.

But development has swept through that part of the county. And hundreds of houses are scheduled to begin coming online midcounty in 2015 as part of the massive development known as Lago Mar, which is expected to eventually bring thousands of houses and new retail to land east and west of I-45 from just north of FM 1764 to Holland Road.

The Tanger Outlets and the soon-to-open Buc-ee’s mega gas station and convenience store also is evidence of growth, Dale said.

“We want to update our facilities to better serve our customers,” Dale said. “We have a positive feeling about the future.”

But another reason to invest in the business is his family’s future, Dale said. Although the rise of publicly owned mega-dealerships has accelerated in the past 15 years, McRee is still family owned. Dale’s son, daughter and son-in-law are the fourth generation to work at the dealership.

“We’re building for their future,” Dale said. “We’re a family business, and it’s something we take a lot of pride in.”

The business got its name from Franklin Bismarck McRee, founder of the dealership and Dale’s grandfather.

The new building will rise on property next to the existing one, which will be torn down when the development is complete.

Because of the way lines are drawn, the existing building is in an unincorporated part of the county. But the new building on the same property will be in Dickinson’s city limits.

The existing building has been remodeled and added on to five or six times, Dale said.

“It’s inefficient; we’ve outgrown it,” he said. “Fortunately, we have a total of 30 acres and the room to do it.”

Ford and other car manufacturers are making a big push to upgrade and remodel facilities, Dale said.

After some deep lows for the auto industry, Ford has made a strong recovery. Ford a few years ago bucked an industry trend of seeking federal help during the most perilous times for automakers. Nationally, Ford’s full-size F-series pickup trucks were the top-selling vehicle in March, according to a list released this week by Autodata Corp., which tracks sales data.

In the Houston region, the Ford F150 was the top seller, according to Infonation Inc., which supplies sales data and trends to the Houston Automobile Dealers Association.

“In Texas, when men and women say ‘Come look at my new car,’ it’s a pickup truck,” Dale said.  

Industry observers attribute the strong sales to low interest rates, declining unemployment and attractive new vehicles that lure consumers to showrooms.

Last year, Houston regional dealers, including those in Galveston County, sold 347,859 units, their highest annual sales for since 2007, up 7 percent from the 325,088 sold in 2012, according to Infonation Inc.

Meanwhile, average retail prices soared to a record $35,358.

The market has made many strides since 2009, one of the worst for U.S. sales since 1982.

“By every measure, 2013 was a banner year for region dealers,” according to a report by the Houston Automobile Dealers Association. “Truck/SUV market share increased, average retail sale prices hit a record high and most brands achieved retail sales growth over 2012. The strongest fourth-quarter sales in 12 years underscores consumer response to many new models.”

Crews are expected to break ground on the McRee Ford development in 60 days and complete construction about 18 months after.

“Business is good,” Dale said.

Contact reporter Laura Elder at 409-683-5248 or laura.elder@galvnews.com.

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(4) comments

Andy Aycoth

Glad to see them expand . They are heads and shoulders over other dealers when it comes to service.
I plan on giving them a little business this fall when I will buy the new redesigned F-150 with the new smaller ecoboost.

Meg Cagnola

I have had great experiences with McRee Ford, glad they are growing. As I tell everyone, I won't purchase a GM (Government Motors) vehicle. I will stick with Ford just on the principle that they did not take tax payers money to get them out of a hole they dug themselves, then take more to "payoff" the original "loan". Still loving my 2014 Escape!

George Croix

After 35 years running of GM products (that's 10 consecutive new ones) I decided that I didn't want to buy a truck from the new Government Motor Company. Period.
And Chrysler/Dodge had been bailed out by taxpayers, twice, so I didn't care for their learning curve issues.
Went to McCree to order a new Ford PU.
Great salespersonnel (to me, that means listen to ME, and know the product well, because I already know what I want, and just want to be helped to get it). When the truck came in 7 weeks later, I was on 14 hour shifts, and the salesman STAYED OVER for TWO HOURS after his day ended to spend nearly an hour with us going over every feature and how to use it - a virtual talking owners' manual.
The service department personnel we've dealt with (had a rock hit the AC condenser and it had to be replaced) have been first rate, and I have detected NO attempt of any kind to BS or condescend to the customers, as so many so-called service departments do (with a particular grimace to a certain dealership not far away that shall remain un-named - I do so hate being lied to - Definitely.)
Even McCree's body shop is first rate. Had some work done on two of my older trucks, and it equaled anything else I'd seen, and exceeded most.
Not a thing, yet, bad to say about them after 4 1/2 years.
I certainly hope that carries over to the new facility.
It should.

Gary Miller

My wife is driving our third Exployer from Mc Ree. Our 5th purchace from them since 1988.
We tried them after three GM products and dealers had proven unsatisfactory. I just don't like a sales man telling me repairs needed don't cost anything on warrantee. They really do. Time from work, days without the car I wanted, the runaround trying to find out when I get it back.
GM has a good warrantee system that dealers use to the Max while owners twiddle their thumbs.
Before we got our first Exployer I didn't think any car could go so many miles with so little maintainence. After 500,000 ++ miles we've spent more on tires than repairs. If you don't bend them they don't break.

PS
The F150 has been the number one selling vehical in America. For 37 years the number one selling Truck.
Exployers were Ranger trucks with a station wagon body.

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