Broadway Volvo is a place where Volvo Cars of North America Inc. sends people to learn about best dealership practices. The Tucson, Ariz., store, a Time Magazine Quality Dealer Award winner, has ranked among Volvo's top U.S. dealerships since 1993.
Broadway Volvo is the product of the innovative, interested and energetic leadership of the DiChristofano family and the dedication and commitment of 30 loyal full-time employees. It's as simple - or as complex - as that.
'We're an eclectic bunch,' says Rocky DiChristofano who, with his brother Mike, runs the only Volvo dealership in town. Their father, Frank, retired two years ago, but he taught them well. Keeping their focus on one make, they are increasing sales and riding the crest of a wave that just won't quit.
'We are loyal to our brand,' Rocky DiChristofano says. 'We feel we can do a better job with one product.'
The dealership runs lean and seeks high-caliber employees who will fit into its corporate environment of teamwork and cooperation. Rocky DiChristofano says he and his brother avoid overstaffing. By pushing individuals a bit harder, employees receive greater rewards - better compensation, for example.
A GOOD FIT
If there is a job open, it may be advertised in the paper, but referrals from current employees are a strong source of applicants. Rocky DiChristofano says he has both mother-son and uncle-nephew combinations on staff. 'We've even had customers tell us they'd like to be considered for positions,' he says.
'In hiring, we look for core skills needed for a position,' he says. 'Good people skills and a strong work ethic are just as important. We believe in a fit. If a guy can turn a million hours in service but is a prima donna, we don't need that.'
For one thing, a prima donna is not likely to take precious time from his or her work to help a colleague solve a problem. Or to do something extra for a customer.
Chris Devonshire, a senior technician with nearly 22 years at the dealership, says, 'If a customer stops by, we will do minor things right on the service drive - change a taillight bulb, replace wiper blades, run a quick test on a 'check engine' light.'
Problems, whether customer- or employee-related, are dealt with as they arise, he says. A couple years ago, service department technicians were expected to work on non-Volvo trades as they came in. It took them away from their projects and often involved ordering parts.
'It was too much for us,' Devonshire says. The dealers studied the situation and responded by hiring a technician dedicated to competing products.
Customers feel comfortable about stopping by with questions about their Volvos, and staff members feel comfortable making suggestions to management, Devonshire says.
NO NEED TO HIDE
Phil Spector had owned a couple businesses before joining the Broadway Volvo staff as a sales specialist in 1990. It was his first auto job. Working for this family-owned dealership has been like being a member of a big family, he says. 'Just about everyone here would go out of the way to help another staff member.'
And the family includes customers. 'I have buyers who have become friends,' he says. 'I don't have to hide from them if we meet outside the dealership. We sell a quality product and provide quality service.'
The hours in sales are long, he admits. 'If you want to be successful, you have to put in the time. As a result, down the road I can sell third and fourth cars to the same customers.'
Rocky DiChristofano says the dealership rewards hard work and long service. 'We're above NADA in regional pay,' he says. 'Our benefits are good. They include medical and disability insurance and an aggressive 401(k) plan in which we match employee contributions up to 4 percent.'
Another plus is longevity pay. DiChristofano says the dealership has been doing that for years. 'The longer you are here, the more you are paid,' he says.
TRIPS TO SWEDEN
The senior employee at the dealership at the end of the year gets a trip to Sweden with his or her spouse. There, they get to know Volvo through a plant tour, and they get to enjoy the sights of Scandinavia.
Because Karen Hikock has been with the DiChristofanos only 14 years, she is unlikely to win the trip to Sweden for some time. But Hikock never figured she would even work for a new-car dealership, let alone stay so long and enjoy the work so much.
'I had been working with an employment agency in Tucson,' she says. 'I was anxious to leave that job and saw an ad in the paper for a position here at Broadway Volvo.'
Starting as a cashier, Hikock since has assisted the office manager and has been in charge of finance and insurance. When the dealership decided to let the sales staff handle all elements of a sale, including the financing, Hikock became a kind of ombudsman, specializing in financial matters.
She adds: 'I didn't think this was something I would ever do.'