The mix of buyers who stride through Jim Nalley's many doors around metro Atlanta represent a microcosm of car customers everywhere. Whether it's the Lexus owner who prefers a Chevy pickup for weekend trips to the home-improvement store, or parents turning the Honda over to Junior and moving up to an Acura, Nalley positions himself to serve all of them under one well-respected brand: his own name.
'We feel that our job is to get people in our door, no matter what (vehicle) brands we represent,' says Nalley, 58. 'So we try to cross-sell within our brands. And we treat people so well, that next time they think of an automobile, they think of us. It's not unusual for my salesmen to work with entire families.'
Buyers select from the nine car and/or light-truck dealerships and three heavy-truck dealerships under the Nalley Cos. umbrella. The company is part of Asbury Automotive Group of Stamford, Conn., the nation's second-largest dealer chain, according to the 1999 Automotive News list of the Top 100 U.S. Dealership Groups.
The name enjoys a high degree of recognition, thanks to its long history in the Atlanta area. The company traces its roots to 1918, when Jim Nalley's grandfather ran a Dodge distributorship in Georgia. Nalley's father followed in the family business, moving into the Atlanta suburbs in 1955 with a Chevrolet dealership.
But sometimes that history is hard to overcome.
'We started (in Atlanta) with Chevy, and even after we started our second, third and fourth dealerships, people still identified our name with Chevy,' Nalley says. 'We've had a difficult time with that.'
Asbury acquired Nalley's operation in February 1997. Nalley's title these days is president and CEO of Asbury Automotive Atlanta, doing business as Nalley Cos.
Recent market research on the Nalley name turned up similar findings on identification. 'A lot of people weren't familiar with the fact we sold anything other than Chevy and Honda,' says Nalley, who added Jaguar in October, when Asbury acquired Troncalli Jaguar in Roswell, Ga., and renamed it Nalley Jaguar. 'They didn't know about Acura, Jeep and Dodge. On the other hand, people think of our name as stability and trust.'
But Nalley doesn't rely strictly on good word-of-mouth reports to bring in sales. The company has run advertising linking its various lines under the Nalley name.
'Fortunately, we have the buying power to get as many of our images out there as anybody in town,' Nalley says. 'And it's important to keep our name out there.'
The company also keeps its name on the Internet, where its Web page (www.nalleycars.com) brings in about 10 percent of the sales. 'We see that the Internet has expanded our business,' Nalley says. 'Traffic on our site increases every month.'
Certified used cars
In addition to Nalley's new-vehicle lines, it sells used vehicles for all of its 24 franchises in 12 locations. Each product has its own 'Nalley Certified' warranty.
The company also maintains four regional body shops that service all lines, and a wholesale parts business for cars as well as heavy-duty trucks. The body shops are part of Nalley Motor Trucks Atlanta and Nalley Chevrolet in Atlanta; Nalley Acura in Marietta, Ga.; and Nalley Roswell Jeep in Roswell, Ga.
'This is a place where customer service and satisfaction is high,' says Nalley, who can't recall ever being adversely affected by factory recalls and bad publicity. 'That makes people feel better about working for us, too. Our employees are totally empowered to do whatever the customer needs, and they don't have to worry about the boss coming back to them about it.'