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Swedish Automotive expands brand loyalty

Tuesday, May 3, 2016 - 07:00
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Fiords, Nobel prizes, Ikea furniture, Delta wing fighters and a history of making world-class cars — that’s what Sweden suggests to the mind. Volvo and Saab: the former generally considered the world’s safest car, the latter making the aforementioned jets; they were automobiles that impacted the U.S. market such that shops like David Winters’ Swedish Automotive could succeed.

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“We have a big Scandinavian population here in Seattle, so Volvo goes way back,” reveals Winters. “The first Volvo dealer that I’m aware of goes back to about 1959, and they’re still in business. I mean my parents bought a 1968 140 Volvo when I was nine years old, and that’s what I grew up driving.

At a Glance:
Swedish Automotive
David Winters
Seattle, Wash.
Number of locations
Years in business
Volvo, Saab, Subaru, Mini Cooper
Brands serviced
AAA, ASA Washington, ASE, BBB, Bosch Service, EnivoStars, West Seattle Chamber of Commerce
Shop affiliations, certifications

“This business started as a hobby for me right out of college,” Winters relates. “I took auto classes in high school; I had always futzed around with cars as a kid, particularly that old Volvo. I was set to go for a Masters degree in geology from Washington State University, but got injured on a job. I came to Seattle to recover and realized I didn’t want to go back to school, so I started picking up old Volvos to buy and sell.”

This soon led to requests for repair work. Mentored by a couple of old hands in the industry, Winters rented a $100 a month apartment with a non-heated garage behind it. That was in 1984. By 1990 he had branched into Saabs and was able to purchase his first facility, a three-bay shop. “It was an old gas station from the 1920s set to be torn down,” he recalls. “We remodeled it, popped a fourth bay out a year later. We were there for 20 years until 2010.”

That year Winters built his own shop, despite the unique challenges presented by the West Seattle real estate market. “It’s almost impossible to find commercial property and build on it,” he reports. “The minimum [structure] for one is usually a three story building, and most are 4-6 stories. If you’re competing with a developer who’s going to put a six-story apartment on it and you’re just building a one story shop, he’s got deeper pockets because he’s going to have something with 6 times the square footage.”

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