Thompson Automotive Group has been passed down through four generations. What began for the Thompson family as a small-service gas station in 1929 grew to the full-service car dealership it is today with several locations across Maryland.

“I literally grew up in the business,” explains Tom Thompson Sr., president of Thompson Automotive Group. “We started out years ago with the small service and gas station, selling different products and used cars.”

Thompson started working at the business full-time in 1965 after he received his degree in business administration at the University of Baltimore. He initially did repair work, and then worked in the body shop, followed by working in sales and various management positions. “You have five or six years of this or that and before you know it, you’re in charge of the dealership,” he says.

Read more: In Charge

For many years, Planet Honda customers would come to buy a car, but it was the spaceship in the middle of the dealership that wowed them. The motion simulator ride through space started as a fun way to explain the ins and outs of ownership to car buyers, but for many in northern New Jersey the four-seat simulator became as much of an attraction as the newest vehicle models. Riders would take off and fly into a black hole, where a woman explained their vehicle’s ownership manual, the dealer’s guarantee and the proper maintenance schedule before finishing with a pitch about saving the environment for all the children of the world.

Read more: Out of this World

On the surface, Magic City Ford Lincoln may appear to be just your average auto dealer. But the company has been serving the Roanoke Valley since 1938, and today President Cameron Johnson is leading the company, having established himself as an entrepreneurial force to be reckoned with since before graduating high school.

    “My great-grandfather started selling Ford Model Ts, and I am a fourth-generation dealer,” Johnson says.

    “We are family owned, and our people have been with us for a long time,” Johnson adds. “We don’t have constant turnover with management or sales, which helps us generate repeat business. We are the dominant Ford dealer in the area, and that allows us to spend less on advertising.”

Read more: Simply Magic

On any given day, prospective car buyers browsing Hillside Honda’s show floor might overhear some Spanish, Mandarin, Korean, Russian or even Bengali. The linguistic variety is a reflection of the surrounding community of Queens, a borough of New York City, and a key way Hillside Honda has created an advantage over its competitors.

The dealership began deliberately building a multilingual staff about 10 years ago, General Manager Peter Petito says, as a means to better reach its customers. Now its employees speak more than 10 languages and even more dialects. Petito himself is fluent in English and Italian and has seen how having multilingual employees has improved customer communication – and business. “If there is a language barrier, they’re not going to buy the car,” he explains.

Read more: A Melting Pot

Visit Dick Genthe Chevrolet for an oil change, tire rotation and multi-point inspection, and you won’t even get out of the car. The service is performed in 15 minutes and is one of the keys to the dealership’s success in the Detroit area.

“Detroit is a little bit different market,” says Bruce Genthe, president of the Southgate, Mich.-based dealership. Indeed, the region is home to thousands of people who work for the Big 3 auto manufacturers and receive significant auto discounts as a result. Quiet simply, a loyal Ford employee is not going to buy a Chevy. The question becomes, how does one Chevy dealership outshine another? The answer: superior service, Genthe insists.

Read more: Best Practice

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.”

Read more: Plan to Lead

Founded by president John Staluppi in the early 1970s and starting out with Honda motorcycles, Atlantic Auto Group has become one of the leading automotive dealership groups in the Northeast. The company has put together the staff, facilities, capacity and convenient locations that it feels present the Atlantic Auto Group as the best choice for customers. “We are most known for being the largest auto group in the Tri-State area,” Staluppi says.

Atlantic Auto currently has 22 dealerships and represents 14 brands. Within its portfolio are five Hyundai, four Toyota/Scion, three Honda, two Nissan, two Lexus, two Audi, two Chevrolet, one Cadillac, one Chrysler Jeep Dodge Ram and one Volkswagen dealerships.

Read more: Critical Mass

When David Alderson started working at his family’s dealership in 1979, he wasn’t even old enough to drive. More senior employees had to back vehicles into the washing area before Alderson could put his rag to work. 

In the 36 years since, Alderson spent time in the parts and service department, became the general manager in 1992 and is now the CEO and third-generation owner of Texas’ Alderson Auto Group – roles that have helped Alderson fully grasp his family’s business. “A lot of general managers do not get the benefit of working through what I feel is the most important part: the service side of the organization,” Alderson says.

Read more: Tied To Texas

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