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Industry Report – Auto DealersAuto dealers continue to play an important role in the state’s economy, according to the New Jersey Coalition of Automotive Retailers, which released an economic-impact report last month.

According to the Trenton-based nonprofit group, franchised new-vehicle dealerships contributed 67,000 jobs in the state in 2006. The average dealership payroll approached $3.3 million. In addition, auto dealerships collected or contributed more than $1.36 billion in state and local sales taxes. They also collectively contributed nearly $16.1 million to community-based charitable causes last year, says the group.

This week’s NJBIZ industry list comprises some of the state’s top dealerships and franchises. Participants were surveyed during March and are ranked based on the total number of vehicles sold in 2006.

In the No. 1 slot is Turnersville Auto Mall. The dealership, which sits on 66 acres just off Route 42 in Turnersville, has 92 sales reps and sold 16,287 vehicles last year.

Open Road Auto Group in Edison was a close second, having sold 16,248 vehicles in 2006. The group has 123 sales reps and eight locations in the state.

Lexus of Bridgewater, formerly Difeo Lexus, ranked No. 14, with 2,798 vehicles sold last year. Benzel-Busch and Lexus of Bridgewater are among a handful of luxury-vehicle dealers to make it on the list.

The four auto malls on the list made for a combined 31,705 vehicles sold in 2006.

In addition to Turnersville, the auto malls are Autoland in Springfield, which sold 10,468 vehicles, Crystal Auto Mall in Greenbrook, which sold 4,500 vehicles, and Whitehouse Auto Mall in Whitehouse Station, which sold 450 vehicles.

Sansone’s Route 1 Auto Mall in Avenel, one of the state’s largest, did not respond by press time.

Many of the state’s so-called mega dealers that are featured on the list were also included in the 2006 Ward’s Mega Dealer 500 list. They are listed with revenue as reported by Ward’s, as follows:

• Holman Enterprises in Pennsauken, with over $2.8 billion in revenue. The company ranked No. 3 on this week’s NJBIZ auto dealers list.

• Ray Catena Auto Group in Edison, with more than $920 million in revenue. The group, which operates Ray Catena Mercedes-Benz, ranked No. 9 on this week’s NJBIZ auto dealers list based on information from Ward’s.

• Toresco Enterprises in Springfield, with close to $500 million in revenue. The company operates Autoland, which ranked No. 4 on this week’s NJBIZ auto dealers list.

• Warnock Automotive Group in East Hanover, with more than $450 million

in revenue.

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