One group of employees didn't see pay cuts: the service technicians. "We needed them to stay," said Grossman. "We needed to retain our [service] customers, and the way we were going to retain them was to have good staff."
The group even expanded into the commercial-truck business during the downturn because of its service component. "If you have a good reputation," said Grossman, commercial-vehicle service "work is almost endless."
Dave Spithaler, service shop foreman at the Toyota store, was in the same position then.
Though service department employees were uncertain about Diehl when she took over, she proved herself, he said. She also treated staff very well, helping employees with interest-free loans and even paying for dental work for one tech, he said.
Their pay decreased during the downturn, but that was natural because it was production-based, Spithaler said. But Diehl kept investing in the service department, buying equipment when it was needed, he said.
"She has taken [the dealership] to much higher levels" than before she took over, he said. "I couldn't be happier." Spithaler, 45, figures to stay with the Diehl group until he retires.
Today, the group has grown to eight locations, seven of which use the Diehl name, and has added Volkswagen, Buick, Cadillac, Chevrolet and Fuso franchises. Diehl's son and daughter work in the business. In retrospect, Diehl said, the Great Recession "absolutely" made the group stronger.
Loyalty — to her husband, herself and "to my family, which is all of us" — was the glue that held everything together, she said.