If you’ve driven towards Lakeway on RR 620 lately and stopped at the light at Kollmeyer Drive, you may have noticed a huge structure taking shape beyond the hillside on your right. Is it a shopping mall? A museum? Nope, that’s the new Lexus of Lakeway dealership.
This 80,000-square-foot facility, which is sitting on about 39 acres, is slated to open in July 2015. While it has the capacity to house about 600 cars, it will typically have 300 cars on-site for the first few years. Two hundred of the 300 vehicles will be new cars representing all nine Lexus models with all color options. Fifty to 100 cars will be used for customer service, so customers can drive one while their car is being serviced.
I had the opportunity to speak with Steven Walker, General Manager at Lexus of Austin about the new dealership. As a Lakeway resident myself since 2007, I’ve seen the project unfold and I’ve certainly heard the dealership debates over the years. But instead of revisiting the history, I was eager to hear Steven’s perspective about the future.
Why does Lexus want to be in Lakeway?
What are you really doing to customize your facility to suit the Lake Travis area?
And let’s be honest, why should we want you here?
Let’s start with, why does Lexus want to be in Lakeway?
Lexus wants to be in Lakeway because market research indicates more than 5,000 Lexus customers live in the Lake Travis area. Plus, over 17,000 Toyota customers live in the Lake Travis area as well.
Since Lexus is a division of Toyota Motor Sales, U.S.A, Inc., Toyota drivers can have their cars serviced at this Lexus dealership, but they don’t sell Toyotas, so customers get to borrow a Lexus as a loaner. (Light bulb!) There’s something about sitting in a sparkling clean new car without car seats and Goldfish crackers that makes your brain say, “Y-E-S.”
Let’s just say, location, location, location.
So we know why Lexus of Lakeway wants to be here, but what are they doing specifically to fit in?
Lake Travis residents and business leaders have worked hard to create a beautiful community that celebrates life in our slice of the Texas Hill Country. How can a car dealership possibly embrace that level of quality? Well, according to Steven, Lexus is “excited to become part of the community and we want to preserve it too.”
For example, Lexus went to great lengths to the build the facility into the topography instead of sacrificing and totally leveling its surroundings to accommodate the building.
Secondly, they wanted to find a unique and aesthetically pleasing way to stay in accordance with City of Lakeway building regulations and avoid the “big box” effect, so they built higher with interesting elevation.
The interior will boast marble, stone and walnut as well as other local materials to keep it consistent with neighborhood homes. Other upscale touches include things like a Barista Bar in the service center where Steven promises, “the Italian soda will knock your socks off.”
Unlike many car dealerships, Lexus likes trees and plants on their property. (I can personally understand why dealerships might not like trees given the fact that I can’t keep my car from glowing green with pollen and I only have one…in a garage…)
Once the building is finished, they will begin landscaping and replant not only hundreds of native trees but also thousands of plants, shrubs, flowers, etc. Many of these trees and plants will be placed in the front of building, so when all is said and done, the dealerships should “blend in” more subtly with its surroundings.
That being said, no amount of well-intended trees and plants will mask this sprawling dealership, especially to the homes overlooking it, but on the bright side it won’t look like a big blue box. The design, colors and tones are being chosen with great care. As Steven explains, that’s the Lexus way. They take great pride in their environment and never want their dealerships to be an eye soar or look like an “airport parking lot.”
So the big question remains, why should we want Lexus to be part of the Lake Travis community?
If you own a Lexus or a Toyota the convenience will be wonderful. You won’t have to fight traffic or devote half of your day (or more) around a commute to and from your local dealership. I don’t happen to own either one, but I do appreciate the convenience factor as my “Service A” indicator has been blinking at me for weeks, because I’m avoiding that very commute.
As far as being a partner in the community, Lexus donated over $1.2 million to Austin organizations in 2014. They have concentrated their donations to The Center for Child Protection, but they’ve also been actively supporting Lake Travis organizations like the Lakeway Police Foundation and Lake Travis Education Foundation.
Despite the concerns and criticisms from some Lake Travis residents, Steven says overall the feedback has been positive and the City of Lakeway has been great. “They’ve treated us with respect, so we’re doing everything in our power to treat the dealership and the Lake Travis community with the same respect.”
The dealership is currently hiring staff for the Lakeway location, both full-time and part-time positions, so they are bringing job opportunities too.
“We understand and appreciate the quality of life Lakeway mirrors and it’s the same philosophy that we want to mirror,” Steven says. “We want to be good neighbors.”