CONCORD -- It's not as quirky as Gilroy's garlic fame or as classy as Napa's reputation for fine wine, but auto dealers here are driving home the message that Concord is the best place to buy a car.

Seventeen new-car dealerships are pitching in a total of $108,000 to pay for a six-month branding campaign; ads plugging the slogan "Concord Has the Cars for You!" will run on two local radio stations.

"Obviously, when you can pool your money together and just send out one message, you can do more," said Rick Boyd, general manager of Future Ford Lincoln of Concord and Future Hyundai of Concord.

The campaign is the latest collaboration between Concord and its car dealerships, which generated nearly a quarter of the city's sales tax revenue in fiscal year 2012, outpacing every other category. That money pays for essential services, including police, roads and parks.

In November 2010, voters approved a half-cent sales tax increase which brought the rate to 9.75 percent. The tax expires in 2016.

Although Concord may be well-known as a car-shopping destination in the East Bay -- it jockeys with Fremont for top billing -- Boyd said the city's reputation doesn't extend south to San Jose.

"We're definitely getting more and more people from outside Concord purchasing vehicles, and that's what we want to do," Boyd said.


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During the recession, many jittery consumers vanished from the city's auto showrooms, and tax dollars from car and truck sales plunged from $4.9 million in fiscal year 2007 to $3.4 million two years later.

Today, the city's car business is booming. Mazda relocated to Concord from Walnut Creek last year; Honda moved to a bigger location, and Audi is expanding and opening a new dealership, according to John Montagh, Concord's economic development and housing manager. Sales tax revenue from autos grew to nearly $5.6 million in the fiscal year ending in June 2013.

A customer talks to salespeople at Future Ford Lincoln of Concord, looking to buy a car in Concord, Calif., on Friday, Jan. 17, 2014. Concord’s 17
A customer talks to salespeople at Future Ford Lincoln of Concord, looking to buy a car in Concord, Calif., on Friday, Jan. 17, 2014. Concord's 17 new car dealerships are funding a campaign to brand the city as the best place to buy a car. (Dan Rosenstrauch/Bay Area News Group)

"We're very proud of our auto dealers in Concord," Montagh said. "They represent some of the most successful brands and dealerships in the East Bay."

Walnut Creek, which recently landed exclusive Maserati and Bentley dealerships, takes in about $4 million in sales tax annually from its 13 car dealerships, according to Ron Gerber, that city's economic development manager. At one time, Walnut Creek considered launching a similar joint marketing campaign, but car dealers didn't think it was necessary, Gerber said.

In recent years, Concord has teamed up with car dealerships to promote a holiday sales event, install signs identifying the auto district and display vehicles at downtown festivals. The city also has given loans to dealers, including $250,000 to Concord Chevrolet in 2009. The outstanding balance on that loan is $147,917, according to Montagh.

During the first phase of the branding campaign last year, Concord car dealers spent $100,000 on television and radio spots. Since the dealers also run their own ads, it's difficult to measure the campaign's effectiveness, Montagh said. "They understand it's a longer-term type of branding, it's not necessarily going to result in a 10 percent increase just because they're advertising," he added. "They just know the branding is important to say Concord is a car destination."

Staff writer Elisabeth Nardi contributed to this story. Lisa P. White covers Concord and Pleasant Hill. Contact her at 925-943-8011. Follow her at Twitter.com/lisa_p_white.