TROY, Mich. (Nov. 30, 2001)—Furthering its existing relationship with Kmart Corp., Penske Auto Centers Inc. has begun adding Penske Express Auto Service Centers to KExpress convenience stores, the mass merchandiser's answer to mini-marts.
Penske's first two forays into the smaller outlets opened recently in Cambridge, Ohio, and Ionia, Mich. Both are in rural areas, but according to a spokeswoman for the Troy-based company, that is purely coincidental and the stores are not pilot or test facilities for a larger program.
“It makes good sense from a standpoint of convenience,” she said. “They're on main highways with easy access.”
The new facilities feature four bays and take up roughly two-thirds of the KExpress' 3,000-plus square feet. KExpress stores are similar to other convenience stores and include gasoline service.
The Penske stores will provide wheel alignment and balancing and under-hood services such as oil changes, fluid maintenance and battery service. Penske Express sites will sell Goodyear tires as well as Penske's own private brand, the spokeswoman said.
She added that despite being in a convenience store setting, the outlets would maintain competitive pricing, with items costing what they do at other Penske units. She compared the new stores to “smaller, scaled-down versions” of the large Penske auto service centers.
“It's a different way to reach new customers,” the spokeswoman said.
Penske also has opened a stand-alone store in Ft. Myers, Fla., the company's first non-Kmart-affiliated store. That new 9,500-sq.-ft. outlet has 10 bays, the spokeswoman said, with about 2,400 square feet dedicated to what she described as retail and customer-friendly aspects.
The latter include a Kids Zone, with video games and other toys, and a business center containing four cubicles complete with modems that allow business people to work while their cars are serviced. The new store offers the same service and product menu as other Penske outlets.
The spokeswoman said Penske is forging ahead with its plan to add 30-40 stores in 2002. Penske President and CEO Jim Wheat announced that plan earlier this fall. She said the number of those stores that would be stand-alone or Express outlets was undetermined.
She did say that all Penske Express stores will be attached to KExpress locations. The buildings are modular, she added, meaning the Penske stores can be added easily to existing KExpress units if desired.
The spokeswoman said not all KExpress stores will have Penske Express outlets attached. The addition of the auto service stores would likely be determined by proximity to existing Penske locations.
“You want to avoid some saturation in the marketplace,” she said, adding that Penske Express stores would be added “if it makes sense to have it.”