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MALL OFFERS NEW CONCEPT IN SELLING CARS

Displaying cars in shopping malls is not new. Many dealers have used mall hallways and center courts to display their wares from time to time.

But no one has yet attempted anything on the scale of Larry H. Miller's new car showroom in the Cottonwood Mall.Tom La Point, director of operations for Miller's Dealership Group, terms the new showroom on the mall's main level a "market test" to see how it goes.

Miller has taken a three-month lease on 3,000 square feet of space in the mall that was formerly occupied by Pehrson's hardware. After that, La Point said, a decision will be made on whether to extend the lease or call it quits.

The test runs through May 31.

The showroom has 11 car lines from Miller's seven dealerships on display, including Cadillac, Chevrolet, Chrysler, Dodge, Geo, Hyundai, Lexus, Oldsmobile, Plymouth, Subaru and Toyota. A minimum of two cars, trucks or vans are represented for each line, La Point said.

The thinking behind the concept, La Point said, is not just to get the cars seen but to offer people a "sales-free, non-threatening environment in which everyone can simply browse and see what's new with 11 of the most popular van, truck and car lines."The showroom has been open two weeks, and, so far, public reaction to the innovation has been "very, very good," La Point said.

"Virtually everyone we talk to likes the idea, and hardly anyone passes by without at least a casual stroll through the 26 vehicles on display."

La Point said he can identify more than 10 sales at Miller's dealerships that can be directly attributed to customers having seen the cars at the showroom.