Modesto car dealer thinks green to cut costs

The future seems brighter for car dealers, and John Gardner expects to take advantage in more ways than one.

Gardner, president of Central Valley Automotive in Modesto, plans to install solar panels at his four locations to cut the cost of electricity. He also aims to provide a charging station for all-electric cars, including the soon-to-be-released Nissan Leaf.

It's Gardner's way of keeping up in an industry that has had an especially rough time in recent years.

"We rallied together, rolled up our sleeves and went to work," said Gardner, who reduced his staff from about 180 to 165 during the downturn.

The dealerships sell Dodge, Hyundai, Volkswagen, Nissan, Infiniti, Chrysler and Jeep vehicles.

Job losses and foreclosures still weigh on the economy, but Gardner expects it will recover.

"There's definitely some pent-up demand," he said, "and I feel that the confidence level of people will go up."

Gardner urges other business people to minimize debt and hold on to key employees.

"Rely on past experience, be proactive and don't panic," he said.

-- John Holland

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