Battling back from the industry's worst sales year since 1992, dealers uncovered creative ways to attract customers and keep them satisfied.
The 100-year-old Sames Auto Group in Laredo, Texas, has survived the Great Depression, two world wars and the recent deep recession. The Sames family celebrated a century in business in September with a party and concert that drew 7,000 people. Pictured are fourth-generation dealer Hank Sames and his daughter -- and eventually fifth-generation dealer -- Evelyn Sames Cain.
Several dealerships have made the Twin Cities a haven for the one-price and limited-negotiation value-pricing models. It began nearly two decades ago when Bill Krouse, a dealer in White Bear Lake, Minn., figured out that the most demanding car shoppers got the best deals and that his nicest, most loyal customers often paid more.
Craig Zinn's new Lexus dealership in Miami is unique. There are two cafes and a boutique that sells high-end Leah Vixamar women's shoes and watches made by TW Steel and Invicta. There are a spa and a hair salon, a gym and an office center -- and nearly all services are free. "The whole plan was to create a destination," Zinn says. "Everybody thought I was crazy."
In August, northern Kentucky dealer Rob Marshall opened a $6 million, 35,000-square-foot Toyota-Scion store in Dry Ridge. It's not your ordinary dealership. Beyond the bright showroom with 16 skylights, there's a customer lounge with stone fireplace, an exercise room, a small fish pond with waterfall and Lori's Cafe. One cafe menu featured buttermilk waffles, gourmet oatmeal topped with whipped cream and pecans, ham and cheese hoagies, and apple dumplings.
Massachusetts dealer superstar Ernie Boch says his Boch New to You outlet in Norwood, Mass., sells about 2,000 in-house certified used vehicles a year. Boch New to You vehicles yield an average gross profit of about $3,000 each, including profit from service contracts and for arranging financing.
Send us a letter
Have an opinion about this story? Click here to submit a Letter to the Editor, and we may publish it in print.