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Tanner sells Honda dealership to Mills

Tanner Motors sold its Honda dealership in Baxter to Mills Auto.

John Tanner, owner of Tanner Motors, said the sale of the Honda dealership off Highway 210 closed Friday. Representatives for Mills Auto were not available for comment Friday afternoon.

“It’s just with the economy the way it was, with the floor plan (how dealers acquire vehicle inventory) issues I’ve had, it was an opportunity for me to No. 1 downsize because I am getting older and (No.) 2 to ensure a floor plan for my father’s store and pay off debts,” Tanner said. “I’m just at the age where running three stores is just too much.”

Tanner operated the Nissan, Honda and Chrysler/Dodge/Jeep dealerships. The Nissan dealership moved into Tanner’s Chrysler lot, which extends along Highway 210/Washington Street.

Tanner said the decision to sell will simplify his life and put all his operations beneath one roof. The economic conditions of the last two or three years have taken their toll, he said.

“So we made a decision to sell the franchise,” Tanner said.

It wasn’t an easy decision, Tanner said, but added he looked at everything and selling the Honda franchise was his best answer. About 16 people work at the Honda dealership.

“We did have a desire to sell it to a local firm, which is what happened,” Tanner said. “So we are excited to get our Chrysler Nissan store launched and go forward.”

In 2003, Tanner Honda Mazda renovated its facility along Highway 210 with a new building and increased access in a $1.5 million construction project. Now, Tanner said, the sale of that dealership will allow him to get the inventory for his Chrysler dealership and build it back to what it once was.

When Chrysler went through bankruptcy during the Great Recession in 2009, its financial arm was wound down and Chrysler had a four-year agreement with GMAC for lending to customers and dealers. Tanner said when that happened no one was thinking there were dealers, like him, who were not financed with Chrysler credit therefore GMAC didn’t have to give him financing for inventory. And Tanner said he couldn’t find a bank that would lend money on a Chrysler product, saying they weren’t sure the brand would survive. Now Chrysler has the fastest growing product line out there, Tanner said, the banks are suddenly interested again but he said he had to beef up his company.

“It’s been a real struggle for us,” Tanner said. “Now the opportunity is back and we’re real excited about what we have coming forward.”

RENEE RICHARDSON may be reached at 855-5852 or

Renee Richardson
Richardson is a Pacelli High School graduate from Austin, Minn., who earned an applied science degree from the University of Minnesota, Waseca, with an emphasis in horse management. She worked extensively in the resort industry. She received an associate’s degree from Central Lakes College, where she was editor of the Westbank Journal student newspaper, as well as a summer intern at the Dispatch. She graduated from St. Cloud State University summa cum laude with a bachelor’s degree in mass communications and interned at the St. Cloud Times covering business while attending SCSU. She's been with the Brainerd Dispatch since 1996.
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