Grappone Mazda moving back to Concord as electric-car changes loom


Monitor staff

Published: 06-29-2021 9:18 AM

A half-century after leaving Concord for Bow, the Grappone name will be returning to a city auto dealership, even as the entire car industry faces upheaval due to electric vehicles and direct sales.

“When you are 97 years into a family business you expect that things are going to change and you understand that you have to change with them,” said Amanda Grappone Osmer, who runs a business that began when her great-grandparents bought a North State Street gas station in 1924.

Some time in the next two years – the steel shortage has pushed back the schedule, Osmer said – the Grappone Mazda dealership will move from shared facilities at the Grappone dealerships alongside the I-93/I-89 interchange in Bow to a standalone site on Manchester Street. The move is being pushed at dealerships around the country by Mazda to differentiate itself in the U.S. market, Osmer said.

“Each franchise does it a little bit differently. This one is very proscribed in terms of materials, furniture, layout, because it’s a ground-up (construction), not a renovation,” Osmer said. She said Mazda was paying a portion of the work, which is still being designed and will cost millions.

Osmer said there isn’t room on the company’s Bow location for a new stand-alone dealership, which is why they will be using the Concord site. It once housed a Volkswagen dealership but Grappone has owned it for decades, most recently using it for a weekly wholesale market, while it housed Jeep and Pontiac dealerships under the Grappone name in the 1980s. The building will be torn down and completely replaced.

The move will put Grappone face-to-face with another area dealership giant, since it will be across the street from Banks Chevrolet and GM. There are also Jeep and Kia dealerships nearby.

All this is happening as the automobile industry and the dealership model is facing more change than in generations, fueled by the rise of all-electric cars. While still a tiny part of total sales, electric vehicles seem likely to become a major part of the business.

Grappone Ford has the new Mach-E, the all-electric Mustang, and Osmer said it’s excited about Lightning, the all-electric version of the F-150 pickup set to arrive next year.

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Mazda, somewhat belatedly, has promised three all-electric models by 2025 as well as several hybrid and plug-in hybrid models.

For dealers, the big concern is that electric motors are much simpler than internal-combustion engines and require much less maintenance, which could undermine the profitable service side of the dealership.

Osmer acknowledged the issue but expressed confidence at coping. “If we don’t do as many oil changes it will be replaced by something. The question is: what is the something and how nimble, how adaptable can we be,” she said.

The company is also facing the issue of how to handle electric charging stations, and training mechanics and sales staff to deal with the new technology.

A deeper, although less immediate issue, is that startup electric car firms led by Tesla are trying to do away with dealerships entirely so they can sell cars directly to consumers, as was done in the earliest days of the automobile industry.

The original Grappone dealership was established by Rocco and Emmanuella Grappone, immigrants from Italy, according to the company history. They bought a gas station across the street from what is now Boutwell’s Bowling Center and in 1925 created the area’s Oldsmobile franchise there. It expanded into other car lines and was passed down to the next generation. It moved to Bow in the late 1960s, where it has gone through two more generations.

(David Brooks can be reached at 369-3313 or or on Twitter @GraniteGeek.)]]>