Carrie Rengers

Walser Automotive Group has layoffs, but Paul Walser remains optimistic

Brothers Andrew, left, and Paul Walser aren’t seeing the new car sales they thought they would after buying Wichita’s Luxury Collection, but Paul Walser says he has no regrets about the purchase and that he wouldn’t sell the dealership for twice the price.
Brothers Andrew, left, and Paul Walser aren’t seeing the new car sales they thought they would after buying Wichita’s Luxury Collection, but Paul Walser says he has no regrets about the purchase and that he wouldn’t sell the dealership for twice the price. The Wichita Eagle

Walser Automotive Group, the Minnesota-based car company that purchased the Luxury Collection in September, laid off a dozen employees in Wichita this week.

“We really need to orient our operating expenses to what our current levels of business are,” Paul Walser says.

“We just probably were a little bit optimistic initially,” he says. “It’s a little bigger challenge I would say than what we originally anticipated.”

The eliminated positions were mostly support jobs, but some were in sales.

“It’s just going to take us a while to build our brand presence down there,” Walser says.

“Every store I have bought in the last 20 years has been right here in my backyard, and Minnesota people know who we are,” he says. “In Wichita, that’s obviously not the case.”

In addition, he’s never had high-end new car brands before. The dealership sells Acura, Audi, BMW, Jaguar, Land Rover, Lexus, Mini, Porsche and Mercedes-Benz brands.

Walser says new cars sales need more of a brand and reputation behind them, and he says high-end cars don’t move in the same way as cheaper ones.

“These cars are a little more specialized.”

Walser says he’s encouraged by used car sales, but he says new car sales are about six months behind where he hoped to be, and service sales are about a year behind.

He says he has no regrets about buying the dealership, though.

“Oh, none,” Walser says. “What I certainly don’t want is for people in Wichita to think that we have lost confidence in this deal or that we are unhappy … having made this decision.”

He adds, “I wouldn’t sell this thing if somebody offered me twice what I paid.”

That may be hard to believe, but Walser says the lack of immediate success won’t hurt him.

“Where it’s difficult to not do the level of business you had hoped, this is not causing hardship to our company as a whole.”

Walser says he loves the industry. It’s his job and his hobby all rolled into one.

“This is a passion play,” he says of making the dealership work.

“This is an important lesson for us to figure out. We’re going to be better for it in the long run.”

Carrie Rengers: 316-268-6340, @CarrieRengers

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