After sniffing around the Twin Cities for nearly a decade, CarMax is finally ready to open its first locations in the region.
The largest U.S. retailer of used vehicles will open a 40,000-square-foot store in Brooklyn Park in March, followed by a second one in Maplewood in the fall.
The arrival of CarMax, which is known for its set prices and no-haggle policy, could roil the local car dealership scene.
"They're the best used-car dealer in the world and the largest by a mile," said David Whiston, a Morningstar analyst who follows the auto industry. "But CarMax coming to town doesn't mean every other dealer is doomed."
Whiston said the weakest car dealers in the market might feel the heat. And some dealers may have to step up their game as some other large franchised dealers have begun to do in the last year or so by putting an end to bartering over prices.
But he added that the used-car market is very fragmented. Even with 143 stores in 72 markets, CarMax still only accounts for a single-digit percentage of total U.S. used-car sales.
CarMax, based in Richmond, Va., has been rapidly growing, adding 10 to 15 new locations a year with plans to continue that pace for the next two years, said Michelle Topping Ellwood, a company spokeswoman.
"Minneapolis is an area that we have identified that fits into our current growth plan," she said in an e-mail. "At this time, these two locations are the only ones on our announced store openings, but we continue to look at the area for future opportunities."
CarMax's arrival in the Twin Cities has taken a long time. It purchased property in Maplewood for a store in 2007. But that store, on Beam Avenue near the intersection of Hwy. 61 and Interstate 694, was put on hold.
"It can often take two to three years to get all necessary approvals, complete construction and open for business once we decide to move forward on any location," Ellwood said.
The recession in 2008 and 2009 was likely a factor in the delay, said Whiston, who added that CarMax stopped opening new stores at that time.
At one point, CarMax also was interested in putting one of its superstores in Burnsville on the site of a former Life Time Fitness. But the company withdrew an application to build it in 2008, citing the city's prohibition on car auctions.
CarMax stores are larger than typical used-car dealers, ranging in size from 15,000 to 45,000 square feet with between 250 and 400 vehicles on the lot.
The Brooklyn Park store will be at 6990 Lakeland Av. N. CarMax is looking to hire more than 75 people for full and part-time positions in sales, business, and service operations such as technicians and service advisers.