Founded in 1911, Wisconsin-based Dahl Automotive has been in the automotive business for more than a century. The company began its days in the car business selling Ford Model T’s from a family general store, and it now represents nine brands with locations in Wisconsin and Minnesota. 

“Five generations of our family have been in this business,” President Andrew Dahl says. “Because we are a family business and have been in these communities for so long, we are known for community involvement, delivering a great guest experience and leadership development.”

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As one of the preeminent car dealerships in southern Louisiana, Trapp Cadillac Chevrolet Inc. is locally owned and has been in business for more than 45 years. The dealership has the passion, experience and knowledge to offer its customers new car purchases that are stress- and hassle-free.

Located 55 miles west of New Orleans, Trapp Cadillac Chevrolet caters to all of southern Louisiana. Its central location paired with the dealership’s unparalleled customer service and live market prices have kept customers coming back for years. 

Heinke Trapp, dealer, owner and president, says the Chevrolet and Cadillac new and used car sales, service and body business includes two showrooms on 10 acres. The secret to its success is “a consistently well-trained staff,” Trapp shares. “Knowledge is power and we believe that thoroughly. It is not only sales training but also training for service advisors, technicians, sales management, Internet staff and receptionists. We train every aspect of the business so everyone knows what they are doing.”

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Customers expect courteous service when shopping for cars, but at Riverside Auto Group’s dealerships, they are called “guests” and are given the kind of care they would receive at a four-star hotel. “We have a very focused team of associates that work to make sure that every one of our guests leaves with a good feeling about their business transaction or their business with us,” President Tim Dagenais emphasizes. “We’ve enjoyed great guest retention due to this.”

Dagenais estimates the company’s guest retention averages 70 percent across Riverside Auto Group’ dealerships. These include the GM, Honda, Nissan, Toyota, Ford and Chrysler brands for cars and trucks as well as Polaris all-terrain vehicles (ATVs).

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Operating heavy- and medium-duty commercial truck businesses at eight locations in five states, McMahon Truck Centers has become known for its support solutions and selection of premium vehicles. A family business, McMahon represents Mack, Volvo and Hino brands, and its product offerings include premium truck bodies and attachments from Jerr-Dan, XL Specialized Trailers and OX Bodies

“We are the fifth generation of our family to be in the transportation business,” CEO Mike McMahon explains. “We’ve learned the dealership business by starting on the ground floor and working our way up, and we’ve invested in the business in ways that have allowed it to expand our offerings. We are eagerly looking for future growth and acquisition opportunities.” 

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Sonic Automotive is trying to change the way its industry conducts business. A Fortune 500 company and member of the Russell 2000 Index, Sonic is among the largest automotive retailers in the United States. With its One Sonic-One Experience (OSOE) sales process, the company is looking to revolutionize the dealer model. “We are very excited to deliver the One Sonic-One Experience initiative to our guests,” President and Co-Founder Scott Smith says. 

Sonic Automotive was launched as a public company in November 1997 with 20 stores, representing 15 brands and several hundred employees. Today, it operates 107 dealerships spread across 14 states and 25 major metropolitan markets.

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As an imported auto parts warehousing distributor, Olympus Imported Auto Parts operates six locations with 150 employees. It delivers to a radius of about 50 miles in the Washington, D.C., area.

“Sales are now about $25 million per year but it didn’t start out that way,” President and Owner Michael Brown points out. 

When the company began in 1977, there were only three drivers and seven employees working out of a single location. Brown took charge a year later at the ripe age of 21 and managed operations for eight years until he bought the $2.4 million, 20-employee company. 

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According to Andy Jones, principal of the Gerald Jones Auto Group, Augusta, Ga., is a “long-term town,” with a number of competing dealerships that have been around as long as the ones his father founded beginning in the 1970s. Although that describes the longevity of many of the auto dealerships in town, it can also be used to describe the tight-knit nature of the community itself.

Jones says the Gerald Jones Auto Group believes its responsibilities to the community extend beyond providing customers with the highest-quality vehicles at the fairest prices. The Gerald Jones Auto Group owes its success in large part to the ways in which it goes above and beyond for its customers and the community at large, Jones says, and that continues to be the company’s main focus for the future. 

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With more than 15 locations employing 1,600 people and a regular stock of more than 5,000 new and used vehicles representing 18 brands, The Fred Beans Family of Dealerships has carved out a large place in the southeast Pennsylvania automotive market.

Although the company’s size and presence in its home base of Doylestown, Pa., and beyond are unquestionably large, its approach to customer and community service is far from impersonal. “We are a family business that works hard at maintaining a relationship with its customers,” Founder and Owner Fred Beans says. “We like to say that we got big by staying small.” 

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