Check out that smile on Kevin Beltz's face.
It's wide, confident and optimistic.
And it is a welcome sight after a rough span in 2000, when business plummeted during a much-needed renovation of his Indianapolis building, home of Gene Beltz Shadeland Dodge since 1970.
'(I) remember sitting outside under a tent in the middle of March,' he says. 'People would drive up and ask, `You open?' '
Finally, the company put up a sign that read, 'Yeah, We're Open.'
The inconveniences are now just a memory. Beltz admits that the $500,000 facelift was necessary to 'bring more people in the door.'
Beltz, 40, and his father, Gene, 66, who started in the car business in the early 1950s, agree that 'bigger isn't always better,' the younger Beltz says. They feel the main disadvantage of a single-line, single-point dealership is not being able to take advantage of economies of scale, particularly with advertising.
Kevin Beltz says both he and his father are much more comfortable with the single-point environment that allows them not only to sell a product they believe in, but to do it with a personal touch.
'We're here and available,' he says. 'If a customer has a problem and wants to see the owner, they'll see the owner.'
He says being family owned adds to the friendly environment. 'We firmly believe that if we take care of our people and stay strong servicewise - even when times are tough - we are going to keep our customers.'
Renovation numbers aside, Beltz says business has been 'terrific' since 1993 and includes a high percentage - 30 to 40 percent a month - of repeat customers. He expects it will only get better as DaimlerChrysler introduces more Dodge vehicles.
'There is a new wave of products on the horizon, and they're just dazzling,' he says. 'We're very excited about the Stratus, the Caravan and a new truck.'
Beltz says the factory has been supportive of its single points and respects their store's niche as a dealership dedicated to providing good value for the money. The manufacturer shows its support in many ways.
'DaimlerChrysler has a Five-Star marketing center where we (single point dealers) can buy our office supplies,' he says. 'They also provide long distance and health care packages to help us stay competitive.'
Beltz says he thinks DaimlerChrysler, which had few successes when it owned dealerships, realizes the value of having single-point dealers.
'They have never said they are going to buy us out or gain control,' he says. 'A few years ago, when everybody was being bought out by public companies, DaimlerChrysler continued to support' single-point dealerships.
There are disadvantages - primarily competing with big chains on advertising - but Beltz says his business has something that no other can top.
No dog and pony show
'Our best feature is our professionalism both during and after the sale,' he says. 'We give good service and personal attention, not the dog and pony show that I see at so many other places.'
He gives much of the credit to his employees. 'We pay them fairly and treat them like human beings,' he says. 'We respect that they have lives outside the dealership and try to give pats on the back.'
The result, he says, is loyalty.
'Our salespersons have been with me an average of eight years,' he says. 'My service director has been here since 1972, and the parts manager has been here 30 years.'
Beltz says his father - 'the smartest, most common-sense businessman I've ever seen' - is a workaholic who will never retire. 'He loves to work and he loves coming into the office every day,' Kevin says.
Even so, Gene Beltz has become less involved with the day-to-day operation as he has become more active in the politics of the industry. He is past NADA director for Indiana.
The younger Beltz says he expects few changes in the operation in coming years. As for adding more franchises, he says, 'I would never rule it out at all, but I can't tell you in the near term that we have any plans for that. ... Who knows in the long run?'
With the exception of occasionally having to remind his dad that the little boy he raised is now a father of three, Kevin Beltz says the two have a terrific working relationship.
'Sometimes, he has to step back and remember that I'm 40 years old,' Beltz says. 'Once a father, always a father.'