'It is extremely important for a dealer to have a strong brand image,' says Katherine Hoxsie, dealer principal of Ray Hoxsie Buick-Pontiac-GMC Truck Inc. of Westerly, R.I.
General Motors' branding strategy pays off for both dealers and GM, Hoxsie says.
'Our brand is our identity,' she explains, 'and we all work to make the brand image as strong as possible.'
Just as important, she thinks the dealership's 'name and reputation in the community are closely associated with our brands. We have been a Buick dealer for about 45 years and a Pontiac dealer for about 30. GMC was added in 1993.'
'Our family has been in the automobile business in our community since 1925,' Hoxsie adds. 'I still have a few customers who were customers of my grandfather (company founder David Hoxsie) many years ago.'
The brands handled by the dealership mean different things to customers, she says. 'Our customers have different images of each line.
'For example, our Buick customers tend to be a bit older and see Buick models as solid and dependable. Pontiac buyers tend to be a little younger and view the line as more exciting and sportier than Buicks. Since GMC has a wide range of models, I would say that the GMC customer views the product line as true professional-quality trucks.
'Of course, within each brand, each model has its own image with customers.'
Hoxsie says the dealership is fortunate to have had a loyal customer base through the years - repeat buyers and loyal service customers.
'Often, this kind of customer likes the brand enough to remain with it over the years without shopping or even looking at other brands,' she says. 'Of course, all customers don't feel that way, and today, general access to so much information makes a strong brand image all the more important.'
To promote its brands, she says, Hoxsie Buick-Pontiac-GMC, like most dealerships, enjoys cooperative advertising with the manufacturer.
The oldest dealership in Westerly, Hoxsie has been at three previous sites in town and at its present site since 1950. The company plans to build a new sales and service facility, hopefully this year, at Dunn's Corners, also in Westerly.
Hoxsie started as a used-car operation and became a Dodge-Plymouth dealership in 1928.
`LIVING WITH THE CUSTOMER'
Ray Hoxsie (David's son and Katherine's father) sold his first used car in 1934 when he was 16, during the Depression. He described selling at that time as 'practically living with the customer.'
Katherine Hoxsie was working as an accountant when her father suggested in 1991 that she join the family business. She did, and in 1995 became dealer principal. Ray Hoxsie, 81, is president and treasurer.
Westerly, which has a year-around population about 19,000, 'is in a summer resort area, and the town itself is becoming a retirement destination,' says Katherine Hoxsie.
Service business at the 15-employee dealership is 'chaotic' in the summer, she says, 'but quality service carries the potential for increased sales, one of the reasons for planning a new facility.'
Even though its digs may change, don't look for a name change. 'The inclusion of all our brands makes for a somewhat lengthy name,' says Hoxsie. 'However, the benefit is that it promotes both the family name and the brands.
'As for the brands themselves, the three we carry seem to be working well together in that we can offer our customers a pretty good range of models from which to choose.'