Sales Talk : Good things come in small packages.

Carole Nash Classic Insurance Specialists

Mike Humble

CSi

It really is so nice to see things done correctly in a world of slapdash practices and throat cutting rivalry. I know I have said it before, but there really is a long term gain by simply throwing straight dice or by just being plain fair when dealing with the public. Quite often, the customer themselves are their own worst enemies by screwing the dealers into the ground, messing around, dealing with every other local agent to to save a few bob.

They then cry like Banshees when the dealer stops being attentive or subservient – there comes a point where a pain in the backside for a sliver of profit and very little chance of repeat or referral business just isn’t worth the hassle. But getting back to the crux of the point – its really great to see a professional and customer-focused outfit really shine and demonstrate their craft. For a trade background person such as I, it kind of makes you realise why you admire the whole motor trade industry.

A close friend of mine had a bad experience with a Dodge Calibre which he purchased from a dealer in Berkshire. The garage was kind of okay but the car itself was utter rubbish. In the end he ran out of patience, and when asking about compact crossover cars, I suggested Hyundai. Running the car as a company motor with very high mileage means the resale value is of a lesser importance, so after trying one and a Kia Sportage, the Hyundai was purchased from a local agent close to Gatwick.

My mate loves his car and his new found family dealer too!
My mate loves his car and his new found family dealer too!

The car has just been recently serviced for the first time since purchase and after doing a little shopping around, he found a dealer in South West London to be notably cheaper. Unfortunately he succumbed to an accident which left him temporarily immobilised him so I was given the task of driving the car to the dealer complete with aforementioned mate and his crutches. Arriving at the premises, the tiny size of the dealership certainly looked tiny compared to many of the modern Cathedral sized dream factories.

A small but happy little dealer that despite being very busy, was clean, tidy and friendly. The lady on the service desk was funny and friendly as was her colleague who ran the parts desk next to her. We collected the courtesy car and were given an estimate of when the car would be ready for collection – but they did forewarn they were a man down and extremely busy in the workshop. Despite this, the car was ready a little over two hours later and immaculately presented.

Even after thumbing through his was wad of notes to pay the bill, we both felt like we had enjoyed ourselves and had been made to feel valued. Its not hard to please the customer and I am certain I know where my chum will quite possibly be purchasing his next car from if the long term experience proves to be a good one. As we left full of coffee and good spirit, another pleasant surprise was in store when arriving at the car in the customer parking area.

The car had been treated to a mini valet and a neat little Hyundai Scented Berry freshener swung merrily from the interior mirror – and it was effective too. A prime example of how well these small family dealers work at keeping their staff motivated and more important of all – ensuring their customers keep flocking back. This is not a blatant advertisement for the dealer in question – Belmont Hyundai, think if more like a tribute for the right way of doing things.

Many of these smaller family run dealers had their franchises stripped in the buoyant times as the manufacturers yearned for huge glass showroom owned by PLC companies in a bid to shift more and more metal. That’s fine when the going is good, but when times get tough those high ceilings also mean high overheads. The smaller family operated businesses with their lower cost bases and impressive attitudes can ride the storm, but sadly there’s not enough of them left to go round.

One thing is worth considering… a dealer who goes the extra mile is worth travelling the extra mile – everyone wins… everyone is satisfied – every time!

Mike Humble

Upon leaving school, Mike was destined to work on the Railway but cars were his first love. An apprenticeship in a large family Ford dealer was his first forray into the dark and seedy world of the motor trade.

Moving on to Rover and then PSV / HGV, he has circumnavigated most departments of dealerships including parts, service and latterly - the showroom. Mike has owned all sorts of rubbish from Lada to Leyland and also holds both Heavy Goods & Public Service Vehicle licences, he buys & sells buses and coaches during the week. Mike runs his own automotive web site and writes for a number of motoring or commercial vehicle themed publications

12 Comments

  1. Just from reading reading this piece you know this garage will bend over backwards for the customer if something goes wrong.

  2. Hi Mike – Ironic that you mention manufacturers switching to glass palaces run by PLCs in place of dealers like this one because Hyundai appear to be in the process of doing just that in many of their territories. So I hope Belmont, who you experienced doing a good job, are allowed to survive.

    I believe the following family owned Hy dealers have recently moved/been moved to Approved Repairer status and sought other new car partners where possible. Some are former MG Rover dealers – others are now picking up the new MGs.

    Colley Cwmbran (joining MG)
    Edwards Kempsey, Worc
    J&J Motors Neath (who were also briefly with MG Motor UK)
    Normandy Garage Guildford
    Eric Stead Sheffield (long time MG Rover, until 2005, about to launch with MG again)
    Leicester Hy now t/a Bishop and Bishop Leicester (its old name from MG Rover days)
    Eastham Motors Wirral
    Gloucester Hy now t/a The Garage Gloucester (formerly Gloucester Saab)
    Humphris Oxford

    A few seem to be going to Mitsubishi (Humphris, Colley, Eastham)

    Several are going to Chevrolet – the Chevvy Franchise Director must be rubbing his hands at the chance to pick up some really good dealers. (Leicester, Sheffield, Guildford).

    At least they keep their service franchise. But I wonder for how long? Not for long I bet as the new glass palace dealers will want to hoover up all the business!

  3. Small certainly can be beautiful, as Mike’s story shows.
    The garage in my village is a five minute walk from my abode and for the last few years, after a manufacturer removed their franchise to set up a (ironically recently failed) large outlet a few miles away, they have concentrated on service, repairs and the odd bit of auto salvage. Whenever I pop in to arrange a service, MOT or other job, the owner and his staff always offer a cuppa, make time to chat and thank you for choosing them. The work is always first class and they will give you a little tour of the work carried out on the car, which is always returned to you spotlessly clean.
    I’m glad to see he’s now started to sell cars again, as well as scooters(he’s a bit of a Vespa nut), with a range of very nicely presented nearly new second hand motors at great prices. Their reputation has helped them to move quite a bit of metal and begun attracting some offers from a number of manufacturers to become a franchisee once more.
    All the very best to them and I for one will be keen to see what’s on offer there when I come to change my car.

  4. Sadly here in the states, small family run car dealerships, except in some rural areas, are a dying breed. Many ‘big 3’ (GM, Ford & Chrysler) got purged out in the 2008 financial crash. They often lacked sufficient capital to ride out the crash out. The big 3 killed of brands and were consolidating the number of dealers to reduce overall costs and ‘right size’ to lower sales and market percentage numbers. Toyota sells more cars that Chrysler, but had 1/2 the dealerships. Add in that most carmakers have demanded expensive renovations to their structures to standardized appearances and new signage only large regional dealerships groups. These groups may own dealerships of a full price range of vehicles, giving better cover with the up and downs of the economy. One group here in Northern NJ owns from Subaru and Honda dealerships to a RR/Bentley one (and a LR one across the road, a Porsche one next to it). Some are requiring standalone dealership facilities, limiting multiple brands not of the same company on the same site. This means little real service, and every chance you will get taken in the showroom or shop.

  5. The Undercover Boss episode with the Hyundai UK boss showed a small dealer at work – sales staff were undertrained, service and valeting staff were overworked and overstretched.

    @LeonUSA you hit a good point on the standardised appearances. VW Group/VAG seem to be particularly strict on this, their showrooms always seem to be a cross between a Tesco and an airport terminal.

  6. Sorry was a little confused reading this – thought your initial point was to pay a little extra and not shop around — so your mate bought the car elsewhere but shopped around for the cheapest service —-

  7. It don’t come much better, more personal than this…..
    Since purchasing my 2003 ZR, early July 2012, I have always had it looked after by Peter Jones Engineering, Oxton, Wirral. In fact Peter has always looked after the car since MGR ‘went under’ in 2005. He acquired the tooling from Windsors, the registered MGR dealer. Anyway, I reckon I’ve been on his premises nine times in the last 16 months – two full services, two interim, an MOT, an electric window fix and a couple of ‘perfectionist pop ins”. Decided on another oil change and rang Peter Jones today. My only words were “I’d like to book my car in for a quick oil change, please”. The reply came “That must be David”. Now, that really is class. Talk about a personal service!!

    I wish I’d taken my 75 to him. Out of convenience, I chose a Land Rover place near work. Now I just take the day off. Peter Jones Engineering is the only garage with licence to touch my ZR !!

  8. It was good to read this account Mike.
    In our experience, the size of the organisation though is irrelevant. It really is down to the MD and his team.
    For many years we had our Alfa looked after by a two man outfit who were fantastic. We then had it looked after by a village garage who did look after us very well and were more than fair when handling a warranty claim for us. On the other hand I had to valet the car every time it came back – greasy stains on carpets, oil on trim and bits not put back were common.
    Our Motorhome has been looked after by a family business about 50 miles from home – but they are good and we won’t take it any where else.
    The MINI is looked after by a big main dealer – and they treat us as if we had just bought a Ferrari every time.
    We recently considered changing the MINI for an Alfa Mito but despite spending half an hour looking at one (wearing AlfaRomeo logo’d jackets) in the newly opened main dealer – we were ignored completely and left for the first and last time.
    I think it’s all down to people – just the same as the service in restaurants.

  9. @9

    Oh dear – we keep being told that Alfa dealers have been improved, clearly not the case here. Mind you the Fiat Alfa dealer in Yorkshire where Mrs MGBen has her 500CC looked after always gives us excellent, personal service.

  10. Yes – a good small dealership still has merits… you can build a trusting amiable relationship with the mechanics (technicians) and feel more comfortable when you pay the bill.

  11. Another small is beautiful tale, again concerning Peter Jones Engineering, Oxton Wirral.

    At the weekend, my Mum suddenly realised the MoT on her ‘Y’ plate, 12.5K miles only, VW Polo was due to expire on Wednesday. I called Peter Jones at 8:45am, introducing myself as “you look after my ZR”. He said he had a very busy week ahead but a bit of a window today, Monday. By 3:45pm the Polo had passed its Mot, had a full service and my Mum was collecting it. The excellent service even included giving Mum a lift after she had dropped the car off and it’s also booked in for a new cambelt Tuesday next week.
    Pure class….

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