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A brand is built 1 customer at a time

Keith Crain is editor-in-chief of Automotive News

Dodge, that historic automobile brand, is celebrating its 100th year.

To help celebrate the anniversary, I decided it was time to visit my local Dodge dealer.

Actually, it was with a certain amount of fear and trepidation that I approached the dealership. I had a burned-out taillight. Although I admit I was too lazy to replace it myself, I thought it would be good to see how the service worked at the dealership.

I met the next-generation car dealer, I hope.

A young man greeted me and asked what I needed. I sheepishly said my taillight was out, and I was fearing the worst.

I thought he would write me up, send me into the waiting room, and I would spend the next two hours waiting for a simple five-minute repair. It was a busy service lane, and I was half wondering whether I should get a loaner and return later.

Deiontae Battle is his name. I hope he becomes a dealer because he's what we all want in someone dealing with customers. He didn't know me, and I am sure he doesn't read Automotive News, at least not yet. I hope he will as his career continues.

Battle didn't write up a repair order. He simply said: "Wait here, and I'll get a light bulb and put it in." And he left to get a screwdriver and a light bulb.

What a pleasant surprise. No delay, except perhaps for the folks behind me, but what a great idea: Fix it on the spot.

Now I don't know whether the Ray Laethem dealership in Detroit instructs its employees to act on the spot or it was a personal initiative, but whatever it was, it made for a happy customer.

I got the bill, paid it and was on my way -- and I wasn't even in the quick lane that most dealers have today for oil and filter changes.

The young man was a great representative of the dealership and the brand.

I am sure that there are thousands of young people who would act exactly the same way and do so every day. They take care of customers, and it's just part of the job.

Battle also represents all those young people who have chosen an automotive career. It certainly bodes well for this business.

You can reach Keith Crain at



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