Now in the hands of his son
What hasn't changed? Its focus on customers, their needs, and the community, said
"We have always had customers' values at the heart of what we do," Sickel said. "Even though we certainly have grown from the one Chevy store on
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War and fire
After purchasing a small Chevrolet dealership in 1937,
Twenty years later, in 1966, Sickel moved the dealership to a larger home at
But Sickel and
At the time, Pine Belt displayed 2,500 new and used cars on 20 acres. The dealership had expanded to fill 100,000 square feet of space.
"I owe it all to the people who work here,"
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New brands added
Sickel would add Oldsmobile,
For instance, the internet has transformed the way dealers do business,
"Customers generally know what they want to buy and how much they are going to pay for this car, and what the car costs, before they even come in," Sickel said. "It's less of a haggling situation."
Now an emphasis is placed on service to make sure the customer receives the car they want to drive. Sickel said the focus is on establishing a long-term relationship with the customer to include car sales, service, maintenance, and referrals. "We are looking for a total relationship as opposed to you bought a car, goodbye, nice to see you," Sickel said.
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Sickel started the dealership's business development center, which receives and handles all business leads, including those from the internet. Specialists, familiar with inventory and even pricing, take calls and incoming internet chats and email. Customers are referred to a sales manager who guides them through the process, including the introduction to a sales person.
"It is central to our organization today, and generates about 45 percent of the business," said Sickel who is on the sales floor every day. "When my grandfather started the business, it was about personal service."
He has made other changes, including giving customers the ability to buy a vehicle without coming to the dealership. A sales representative works with a customer over the telephone and through email, bringing the car and the paperwork to the house. "We are utilizing technology to provide better service for our customers," Sickel said. "We don't necessarily need customers to come to our store anymore."
Earlier this month, Sickel opened an
Sales have seen some gains too. While Chevrolet sales in the district that includes
Meanwhile, Pine Belt remains involved in the local community in northern
As part of its 80th anniversary celebration, Pine Belt is having an appreciation event at the dealership on
The first is a "rock-solid focus" on community and customers, he said. The second is "business acumen."
"The car business is a customer care business and if you only care about the next quarter and you only care about volume of sales, then 80 years isn't in your future," Appleton said. "If you put the customer first and you run a tight ship then from a business perspective, the car business is a business that favors longevity."
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