The Galles family in Albuquerque, N.M., boasts of having been in business since 1908. Now at least one branch of it, Galles Motor Co., is on the move in the new millennium via the Internet.
The Galles name may be associated nationally with its racing team. But locally, it is associated with businesses whose customers have been loyal for decades and are the sons and daughters of customers who did business for decades before that.
Now, however, some of those long-time customers are beginning to do business in a new way. More of them are logging on to galles.com or saturn-albuquerue.com and shopping with a computer.
Galles Motor Co., whose CEO and president is Rick Galles, comprises a Saturn dealership and a Chevrolet dealership. The foray into the Internet began about 18 months ago.
Two people oversee the Internet site full time at the Chevrolet dealership and one at the Saturn dealership.
So far, the sales volume from the Internet is not large, but it is expected to grow, Galles says.
At the Saturn dealership, five to six out of 50 a month have looked at the Internet, he says.
'We converse through e-mail, and we have even closed deals on the Internet, but we really prefer to make it more personal than that,' Galles says. 'We want customers to come in at some point so we can introduce them to our services. We want that personal contact.
'A lot of our customers are long-time return customers, and they tend to want to come in at some point anyway.'
Still, despite the customer loyalty, the Internet has brought changes to Galles Motor and has caused some trepidation among the staff.
'We just hired two women who were former receptionists to handle our Internet full time,' Galles says. 'We realized that it takes a different kind of personality to do that. It takes someone with a lot of patience, one who can deal with people in a different way than a salesman; but they can direct a customer to the salesman whose personality will fit the customer best.'
Some of the staff fear that the Internet could mean people never will see a salesperson and the personal touch for which Galles Motor has been famous for more than 90 years will be lost, Galles says.
'But that hasn't happened, and I don't see that happening,' he says. 'Nobody wants to buy something for $30,000 without seeing it.'
THE GROUND FLOOR
Galles says he expects even more changes in the way business is done over the Internet. 'Of course, car sales on the Internet will grow,' he says. 'And because of that, I expect people will be charging fees for looking at their Internet sites in the future. You never know what's going to happen, really.'
Galles says many of his customers are in rural areas that computers and the Internet have not yet saturated. 'But that's going to change soon, and I think we'll be on the ground floor and ready to grow with them,' he says.
Although his company is moving into the future with the Internet, it was not something Galles could have predicted. 'At the age of 53, I never thought I would be involved with computers and the Internet to the extent I am,' he says.
But now, Galles says, a momentum exists that can't be stopped. 'A year ago, I thought of the Internet as a necessary evil,' he says. 'Now, I just see it as necessary.'