Thanks to the long-lasting popularity of the brand it sells, Huey's Honda finds strength in its status as a single-line, single-point dealership.
'If you're going to be a single-point dealer, Honda is an awfully good brand to have,' says Andy Huey, 43, president of the business that has been at its current location in Frontenac, Mo., since 1995. Honda has 'a strong product line and loyal owners,' he says.
With the Accord and Civic as his longtime bread-and-butter cars and waiting lists for the Odyssey minivan and the S2000 sports car, Huey believes the dealership is on the right path to growth.
Its location is an added bonus: Just 12 miles south of the Gateway Arch in St. Louis, Huey's Honda is centrally located and easily accessible from major roads.
Long, winding road
Andy and his brother Peter, 37, the dealership's general manager, always planned to take over the business from their father, but the change happened sooner than anticipated when Dick Huey died unexpectedly in August 1999 at age 67.
The dealership was formed in 1960 when George Carlson and his uncle, Dick Carlson, left a Chevrolet-Oldsmobile dealership near Chicago to take over an Oldsmobile franchise in the St. Louis suburb of Clayton, Mo. The dealership later moved to Frontenac, the current site of Huey's Honda.
Dick Huey entered the business in 1969. In the early 1970s, the dealership added Honda, making Carlson Oldsmobile one of the first Honda dealers in the Midwest. Huey began acquiring shares of the business and bought it in 1983.
To encourage full development of the Honda franchise, Huey moved it to an exclusive facility in the mid-1980s; the Oldsmobile franchise remained in Frontenac. In 1995, the Hueys sold the Oldsmobile dealership and moved the Honda line back to the Frontenac location, reopening as Huey's Honda.
The owners are there
While Huey's Honda competes with five other Honda dealerships in the St. Louis area, Andy Huey believes the franchise's strength lies in its exclusivity and and the fact that the owners are on hand daily.
Customers benefit from having local decision makers available to handle their needs. The service center is open six days a week. The dealership services 1,500 cars and provides body work for 130 vehicles each month.
'My brother and I are both here every day,' he says. 'We don't have the bureaucratic impediments that some of the larger stores have.'
Huey believes the arrangement is beneficial for Honda and his dealership. 'Honda likes having the owner in the store,' he says. 'They like having somebody in the store who can make decisions. And they like the fact that we are exclusively Honda.'
The brothers have found strong factory support for the dealership. Honda has provided extra car allotments to help with the cost of a facility upgrade, which was completed in 1999.
Running the business successfully on a daily basis and dealing with the transfer of ownership since their father's death have been at the forefront during the past year. With Honda sales growing each year, the brothers do not have any immediate plans to acquire or open another store.
'We have to continue to be profitable to ensure our success in the long run,' Andy Huey says. 'Some day the economy is going to slow down. By taking care of our customers and employees, we will be well positioned even if the economy tightens.'
Huey advises other dealers to stay focused on the business at hand to attain success.
'Be there every day,' he says, 'and focus on satisfying your customers and employees.'