The Stevinson name has played a competitive role in the Denver automotive scene for almost 40 years. Four years ago, it became the focus for a major dealership branding effort, with special emphasis on the service side of its operation.
'In Denver, people want to know whom they're doing business with, and we've taken advantage of that,' says Kent Stevinson, president of Stevinson Automotive Inc.
Stevinson Automotive has six dealerships that handle Chevrolet, Jaguar, Porsche, Lexus, Toyota and Ford.
'A customer is a Stevinson customer for life, as far as we're concerned,' says Stevinson. 'We have lots of cross-buyers' of vehicle brands,' he said. 'A good Lexus buyer might purchase a (Chevrolet) Suburban. If they want something we don't handle, we'll get it for them. I don't care what they want to buy - a Lincoln, a Cadillac, a Mercedes - we'll get it.
'They're Stevinson customers, and we intend to accommodate them as such. If they bought from us, we take care of them; they can go to any of our dealerships and get attention.'
Taking care of those customers on the service side is an essential part of Stevinson's dealership branding program. Under its Stevinson Specialty Service program, the company offers:
Free Saturday car washes
Three free oil changes a year: 'You buy the vehicle, we pay for the oil changes,' Stevinson says.
Special 'Ste-vinson Family' events: 'We get together with customers for barbecues, picnics, new-car parties, even a concert now and then,' Stevinson says.
Scheduled sales and service appointments
New-owner clinics: 'Everything from how to change that one doo-hickey to what that little thingamajig is for.'
Quick-check pit crew service: 'Give us 10 minutes and we'll top off your car's fluids, inspect the belts and hoses, check your tires, and even wash your windows.'
A newsletter that 'includes sneak peeks at the new makes and models; even service specials and coupons,' he says.
'Our customers know we're reputable,' says Stevinson. 'My Dad based his business from the start on good customer relations.' So, in actuality, the branding of the Stevinson name began many years ago.
Chuck Stevinson arrived in Golden, Colo., in 1962 from Kansas City, Mo., as the new owner of a small Chevrolet dealership on Ford Street. In 1970, a small Lakewood dealership carrying the little-known Toyota product line was purchased. The dealerships were expanded to their present large sites in 1973, and other franchises have been added since.
The most recent addition was the Golden Ford store in 1997; that acquisition came two years after the death of the elder Stevinson.
'Business has been very good, showing an overall increase every year for the past 10 years,' Kent Stevinson says.
A younger brother, Paul, is involved in management of the Jaguar-Porsche dealership, Stevinson Imports, in Littleton.
Featuring the boss humorously in TV commercials has been another important factor in the branding focus of recent years.
'I was apprehensive initially, because they wanted me very visible in the program,' Stevinson says.
The commercials, with Stevinson the center of comical situations on the golf course or hockey rink, have drawn impressive response.
The feedback has been positive. 'And when it comes time to complain, the customer needs someone who will listen - and here we are,' says Stevinson. 'That's been another part of our message. We set our objectives, and we've stayed the steady course.
'We've been serving this area since the early '60s, and we're now taking care of many of the kids and grandkids of our early customers,' Stevinson says.
'We plan to be around a good many more years, and we will selectively add more makes to better serve our growing clientele.'