OAKLAND — There are no cars on the lot yet, but a large "Now Hiring!" banner draped in the windows of the months-vacant dealership on the edge of Interstate 880 in Oakland is being seen as a road sign to recovery by city leaders and the struggling auto industry.
Owners of One Toyota of Oakland, a sister dealership to Avondale Toyota in Arizona, plan to open their doors in late January or early February and hire at least 100 workers immediately, about 200 in the course of a year.
Applications are being accepted, and a job fair will be held at the site Dec. 12-13.
The sparkling, state-of-the-art, 200,000-square-foot structure on Oakport Street near Hegenberger Road, with its massive showroom and high-tech service bays, was built about a year ago for the now-defunct Superior Toyota, which moved from Alameda and spent only about a week in the new building before the company lost its financing and had to shut down in February. The building has stood empty since, with white shrouds covering the Toyota signs and weeds growing around the edges.
City officials and One Toyota owners are confident nothing like that will happen this time.
"It's an awesome thing to have this new dealership bring life back to this building and jobs to Oakland," City Councilmember Larry Reid said Wednesday. "And this time it's on more secure footing. These owners have a very successful dealership in Arizona, and Toyota selected them specifically for this site."
Owner Brian McCafferty, who has been in the car business for 25 years, said he is so committed to this project he is moving his family to the Bay Area from their longtime home in Arizona, and he purchased the property where the dealership stands.
"What is that old saying about the egg-and-ham breakfast?" McCafferty asked. "The chicken just gave up an egg, but the pig, as the ham, is downright committed. I'm the ham."
His dealerships have no relation to Superior Toyota, he said.
"I can't speak to the previous owner's situation, but I know he had a lot of other business interests going on," he said. "I have this and the Avondale dealership, and that's my focus. Both are family-owned and -operated. We were delighted to be invited to engage in Toyota's selection process for this site."
Despite numerous closures of auto dealerships throughout the United States during the past year and Toyota's and General Motors' planning to pull out from the NUMMI plant in Fremont, McCafferty is convinced this is the right time to move forward. Toyota Motor Sales USA said Tuesday that its sales rose 2.6 percent last month from a year earlier, led by gains in its popular Camry and Prius models. And McCafferty believes his company's unique business model of "one price, one person" — eliminating add-on costs to a car's purchase price and dealing with one salesperson throughout a transaction — will win over buyers.
"The car business has been challenging the last few years, but if you truly offer something the customer can't get anywhere else, you'll be successful in the market," he said.