A new building featuring Jeep products and accessories is the latest projected advancement for Freedom Jeep Chrysler in Killeen.

“We are finalizing the plans and we should begin in the next 60 days,” owner Mitch Connell said Wednesday. “We expect the time to build will be about seven months.”

The owners received a city permit to build a new $2.13 million building adjacent to their existing dealership at 3602 E. Central Texas Expressway. The new building will be an 18,000-square-foot Jeep store, including service and parts center, at the east end of their current location, according to Mitch Connell, who co-owns the business with his brother Matt Connell.

“We wanted to put a spotlight on the Jeep products and accessories: bigger tires and lift kicks, it’s very popular to modify one,” Mitch Connell said. “We’ve been doing Jeep modifications for a long time.”

Freedom Jeep Chrysler and Dodge Country are among several local business interests of the Connell brothers, according to Mitch Connell.

“Fiat Chrysler Automobiles is trying to move its Jeep franchise to a higher volume level and by doing that they’re creating interesting and exciting new products and they want them represented separately,” Mitch Connell said.

Freedom Jeep Chrysler stocked their first Gladiator — a type of Jeep with a flat bed in the rear — which lasted less than 20 minutes on the market before it was purchased, Mitch Connell said.

“It looks like a Jeep Wrangler like everybody knows, but they made a pickup out of it,” Mitch Connell said. “The guy who bought it actually spoke up and made a deal on it before we even physically got it in.”

Mitch Connell said other products are also in the works.

The brothers have been working in the family business since their dad took ownership in 1981 and have seen it grow from 20 employees, to the current business — which employs roughly 200, Mitch Connell said. The dealership sells roughly 3,000 vehicles a year, he said.

“I am proud of what we’ve built. When we went into the Chrysler business back in ‘81, nobody wanted the franchises,” Mitch Connell said. “The previous dealers had just given up on them.”

About the time the Connells took over the Killeen Chrysler, former Ford employee Lido “Lee” Anthony Iacocca took over Chrysler and led it to resurgence, Mitch Connell said.

Freedom Jeep Chrysler originally sold Jeeps from American Motors Corp. before they merged into Chrysler, and Renault — when they were sold in the United States, Mitch Connell said.

“I’ve done business here all my life, Freedom Jeep Chrysler a home town business for me,” Mitch Connell said. “It’s your typical mom-and-pop type business and my father retired nearly 20 years ago and he has since passed on, but my brother and I have ended up with the business and we’ve grown it quite a bit since he retired and this project is just continued growth to better serve the community.”

Mitch Connell said the expansion to Freedom Jeep Chrysler was planned before the Connells learned of the Carmax which opened Wednesday at 3504 E. Central Expressway, next to their dealership.

“Both Carmax and us will benefit from us being so close to them — it will be a destination for shoppers,” Mitch Connell said. “Between us, we’ve got close to 20 acres there. They focus on used cars, and we have both used and new cars.”

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