Looking for a car?

James Canon, Crown Eurocars
James Canon owns a Jaguar, Mercedes and Kia – all purchased at Crown Eurocars.

BY HOLLY KESTENIS, Staff Writer

ST. PETERSBURG – Car breaking down? Or maybe you just want a new ride. When it comes to shopping for a new car most head to the internet to check out what cars they can afford on their budget. Well one local dealership wants you to explore all your options. Including the luxury cars found at Crown Eurocars of St. Petersburg.

When shopping for a car, Mercedes-Benz or the Jaguar brand, don’t normally pop into the typical consumer’s mind. They can be quite pricey, some going as high as $300,000. But what most don’t know is that you can still get the quality of a Mercedes without falling into debt.

Larry Casto is the general manager of Crown Eurocars, an authorized Mercedes-Benz dealership, located at 6001 34th St. N. He’s been selling cars since the 1980s. Casto has always believed in the Mercedes name and has made a living finding the right car for the customers who enter his dealership.

Casto just doesn’t sell cars to make a profit though; he has risen to the top because of his down-home love of St. Petersburg and the diversified group of people who reside within its borders.

He builds relationships that last a lifetime, a trait that speaks to his character and the Mercedes name. When you buy a Jaguar or Benz at Crown you are not only getting a quality car, but a friend for life.

No one knows this better than James Canon. A few years ago Canon decided he wanted a new car. A longtime Lexus owner, Canon’s expectations of what to expect in the car buying process were pretty high. He had had a good experience with his car and the company he bought it from, so Canon knew what to look for at the dealerships.

So on the day he decided he was coming home with a new car, Canon shopped around. He visited various dealerships within the city not quite knowing just what kind of car he wanted to settle on.

“There were a couple, I drove off, out of the lot,” said Canon speaking of the dealerships he visited. “I just drove away.”

With salesmen standing around socializing, Canon was forced to look at the cars himself. No one came to assist him until a manager noticed him sitting in a car unattended. By then Canon had had enough and refused service.

“I would never buy that particular car,” said Canon as he recalled how he was feeling that day, “and it had nothing to do with the car, just the onetime experience I had with that dealership, I would never even look at that brand [again].”

But when he stepped on the lot at Crown Eurocars, his experience rivaled the best he had ever had. He had his eye on a Jaguar and even while wearing his trademark shorts and flip flops, Canon was pleasantly surprised with his treatment.

“They made me feel comfortable,” he said. “They gave me the same service as they gave everyone else on that lot.”

Canon was so impressed with the service, follow-up and family atmosphere he experienced at Crown Eurocars that he bought his wife a Mercedes not too long after that, and just last year he purchased a Kia from Crown as well.

A trademark that not only shows the professionalism at Crown corporations, but their commitment for repeat customers, no matter their race, gender, or economic status.

And although race doesn’t play a factor in customer service, Casto has done his research. According to his findings, African Americans are the fastest growing group when it comes to purchasing high-end cars in the St. Petersburg area. He states that income levels among the African-American community have risen roughly 20 percent since the 1990s and with about 50 percent owning their own homes.

But it is Casto’s love of building those long-term relationships that has kept his families coming back. He remembers the first day he sold a Mercedes to a local jewelry storeowner. They’ve been friends for nearly 30 years now and he still is buying cars from Casto. Today his daughter has graduated from college and works as a pharmacist. She too has bought her first Mercedes from Casto, and the cycle continues.

Society as a whole, according to statistics furnished by Casto, in his opinion, has become more transient. But he feels it is just the opposite among the African-American community in Pinellas County.

“It’s nice to see people who you have dealt with and their families grow up and they’re being successful,” he said.

So, what if you’re not a college grad with a professional job…yet? Well owning a luxury car doesn’t have to be put on hold. The typical car owner nowadays trades in their vehicle around every three years. The same holds true for luxury car owners.

“We change cars more often now,” said Casto whose customers trade within the Benz family and leave behind a well taken care of used vehicle. Nestled on the lot between the new Mercedes and Jags are the pre-owned cars, which Casto stands by as far as quality.

“If it’s a nice trade-in, we keep it and sell it,” he said of both the Mercede-Benz and Jags they have on their property. Casto touts these as the perfect car for someone wanting the luxury and safety associated with their product, but who may not be where they need to be financially for a new vehicle. It also is a great idea for a teenager looking for their first car.

“When you put a 16-year-old out there you want them in a tank and the Mercedes is just like a little tank,” he said, “A great car for beginners.”

A used Mercedes can be had at the Crown Eurocars dealership for a song. “You can get a really nice used one in the mid-teens,” Casto said.

Mercedes has 2014 CLA 250 four door that starts under $30,000. This may not have all the bells and whistles of say a Benz twice its sticker price, but safety is standard with the Benz name and upgrades can always be added to this entry-level luxury sedan.

“Go look, you’ll get shocked,” Casto urged bent on dispelling the misconception that Mercedes products are out of the grasp of the everyday professional. “Most people think it’s not affordable until they actually come in. They’ll say, ‘I couldn’t believe I can get a Mercedes-Benz for that.’”

In the next few months, the Mercedes-Benz Company plans to unleash their latest addition to their entourage. An SUV is set to hit the market starting around $30,000.

So if you’re looking for a new vehicle, don’t eliminate Mercedez-Benz from your list anymore. Head on down to Crown Eurocars and check them out. You can get an idea of what they have in stock by viewing their website at www.crowneurocars.com.

And remember, graduation is right around the corner.

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