One of the world’s largest dealerships thrives in West Edmonton Mall

Jim Jiwani photo credit : Perry Lefko

The world’s biggest full-service indoor dealership, which happens to be in Canada and is part of one of the biggest malls in the world, is proving to be quite the attraction.

Since it opened last October, the Prestige Auto Group’s West Edmonton Mall Toyota store is living up to its billing, with a footprint of about 150,000 square feet in the West Edmonton Mall. The dealership includes areas for sales, service, parts, detailing and valet.

In a word, it offers convenience inside of the shopping centre/entertainment complex that includes a waterpark with waves, skating rink, amusement park and an underground aquarium that includes exotic marine life and a pirate ship above it.

West Edmonton Mall Toyota General Manager/Managing Partner David Friesen told Canadian auto dealer during a visit last week that the dealership averages between 200-500 people during weekdays. He said it averages 1,000 on Saturdays, and between 120-150 from noon to 1 p.m. He said there are mounted cameras that physically count the number of visitors coming through the entrance. There is a giant dealership sign in the atrium just outside the entrance displaying cars.

“If we would have gotten one-fifth of that traffic (in the previous dealership) we would have been happy,” said Jim Jiwani, President, Prestige Auto Group. “It has exceeded my expectations. People see the cars (in the atrium) and the next thing they walk into the dealership. Once they walk in, a lot of them want to see the service department and all that, and then they are completely blown away at how massive and big and clean it is.”

The dealership’s previous nearby location, which was about 65,000 square feet, ran out of space. The choice was to either renovate the existing space or move to another location. The mall opportunity came from a pre-existing relationship between the dealership and the mall, doing various events every year, including cars inside the skating rink, which was named the Mayfield Toyota Ice Palace. When space became available due to an anchor tenant leaving the mall, the mall offered the dealership the space, and potential access to the mall’s 30,000-100,000 visitors per day.

“Ultimately when we came up with the concept of moving, it was Jim that was either going to kill it or move on it right from the start,” Friesen said. “Ultimately it was Jim that said, ‘Yes, let’s go with this idea and see if we can make it work.’”

Three years later, the dealership opened, though COVID-19 prevented a grand celebration to mark the occasion.

“We never doubted the concept, and we didn’t build it for today. You never do,” said Friesen. “We built this right from the start for tomorrow. Because we knew the relationship with the mall could get customers to the door, so we knew that bringing the two together, quite honestly, was a no-brainer.”

Friesen said no one in the industry has disputed the claim it is the largest dealership in the world. He added the dealership is incomparable to what people are used to seeing in a normal dealership.

“Most people would think that would be a problem trying to manage that many coming through the door, but it’s not,” he said. “If you want to take pictures of cars, which a lot of people do, and then walk out, no problem. No one’s going to pester you if that’s what you want to do. We may ask you if you want some help, but for the most part those people come in, take a look, and they go. They may come back, and back again. By the third or fourth visit, maybe they want to talk to somebody about buying a car.”

There is an area just outside of the dealership for parking, and Jiwani said the plan is to use some available space beside it to convert into a two-level building. It would hold new inventory, an underground detailing/car wash area and parking space. Jiwani said the previous dealership carried about 500-600 vehicles because of the demand and the availability, but the plan is to have room for double that amount once the overall car shortage caused by the global chip shortage ends.

Jiwani said the dealership sold 600 cars a month in its first three months.

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