Shields Auto Center new facility

The ribbon is cut for the new Shields Auto Center facility in west Rantoul Friday.

RANTOUL — For 16 years, Shields Auto Center officials have wanted to head west. West as in near the Interstate 57 interchange.

That’s according to General Manager/Vice President Rick Shields, who welcomed people attending Friday’s ribbon cutting and grand opening of the company’s new business location.

He said the company bought the property on which the dealership now sits before the new Walmart was built. It now sits just north of that store.

The open house included tours of the new 28,000-square-foot facility.

“Our staff is excited,” Shields said. “I don’t run into a customer that doesn’t thank us for doing this, (saying) how great it looks coming into town.”

Shields said sales have increased since the move, and the dealership has added more sales people, plus two additional service writers and technicians.

Shields attributed some of the additional sales to more drive-by traffic. But he said part of it could be customers getting a new vehicle prior to implementation of the state’s new vehicle trade-in tax that went into effect Jan. 1.

He said Shields has also increased its inventory. Construction of the new facility began in September 2018. Work was supposed to be finished, Shields said, this past July but didn’t cap off until November.

One of the new features Rick Shields is most proud of was added to the service drive area — a machine that provides a free alignment check and does a 3D image of tire tread.

“They drive over this monitor on the floor, and the alignment is right there,” he said. “Eight seconds later it tells you if your car is in alignment and how much tread you have.”