Photos by Gina Turner
When Gabe Alanis needed a new truck for his company fleet earlier this year, he knew where to go—the same place he had gone for his four previous new truck purchases. Gabe, the owner of Unique Plumbing, a commercial plumbing company based in the Conroe/Willis area, has found it’s easy to do business with Team Dodge in Huntsville. He prefers to avoid “all that hustle-bustle and back and forth” that is often a part of the vehicle-purchasing experience at large dealerships in the greater Houston area. So, when it was time for a new truck, Gabe simply called Jason Dunn, sales manager of pre-owned vehicles at Team Dodge. “He has always come through for me,” Gabe says. “He is always fair.”
The new and pre-owned sales staff at Team Dodge is accustomed to working with people like Gabe. Ryan Gimpel, a new car sales manager, says serving customers from Conroe, Willis, and Montgomery is an everyday occurrence. In fact, he estimates that 40 percent of the dealership’s customers live in the area south of Huntsville and north of Houston, and customers have come from as far away as central Texas, Oklahoma, and Louisiana. While some of these customers have found appealing vehicles on the internet, others simply like the small-town, hassle-free atmosphere at Team Dodge. Members of the sales staff know their customers are busy, and therefore respect their time. “We listen to what the customer wants,” Ryan says.
Furthermore, many customers have learned that Team Dodge’s advertised prices are actually what they can expect to pay. Team Dodge is proud of its fair pricing, Ryan says, and does not “play games.” One tactic that is popular among large dealerships is to accurately price vehicles but to offer customers deflated prices for their trade-in vehicles. Another less-than-honest technique is to deduct rebates from advertised prices. While manufacturer rebates are often available on new cars and trucks, many customers can’t qualify for them. For example, some manufacturer rebates are only available to people with certain credit scores or to active duty military personnel. Team Dodge advertises only rebates that customers can realistically expect to obtain.
Some customers who live in the Lake Conroe area have told Ryan and Jason that they dislike going to luxurious dealerships that are located on vast chunks of valuable Houston real estate, deducing that high overhead contributes to inflated prices. “They feel more comfortable here because we’re a smaller store,” Ryan says. Still, Houston-area dealerships often attract the interest of customers who live in the Huntsville area. “We will actually tell them to go ahead and go,” Ryan says. “Nine times out of ten, they’ll say, ‘You were right. We were there for three hours and couldn’t get them to give us the price they advertised.’”
Team Dodge offers Dodges, Chryslers, Jeeps, and ever-popular Ram trucks. “It’s our best seller, probably because of our location in a rural area,” Ryan says. “The family car is pretty much a pickup truck out here.” He noted that in June, Ram trucks outsold Chevrolet trucks nationwide.
Team Dodge’s small-town appeal is also evident in its service department. Although customers can have their vehicles serviced at any dealership, an enormous majority of customers from the Conroe, Willis, and Montgomery areas choose to return to Team Dodge when their vehicles need service. Such customers enjoy personalized treatment, as well as shorter wait times for appointments. “Bigger dealerships are backed up for weeks,” Ryan says.
The service department at Team Dodge also welcomes people who bought their Chryslers, Dodges, Rams, and Jeeps elsewhere. All cars are treated to 27-point inspections so items requiring immediate attention can be spotted, and so owners can be warned about items that may need attention in the near future. For example, if brake pads are beginning to show wear, service technicians advise customers so they’ll be prepared to replace them soon. When work is needed, the Team Dodge service department uses only certified parts.
“I think people trust us because we try to have a real personal touch,” says Joe Miller, director of Team Dodge’s parts department, service department and body shop. (Team Dodge’s body shop, Danny Brown’s Paint and Body, is located off-site, but is owned and managed by the dealership.) “We know the majority of these people by name when they pull up. At the larger dealerships in Houston, you are just a number and a car to them. To us, the car is the secondary relationship. The customer is the primary relationship. We try to know them by name. There is more of a personal touch because of our smaller dealership.”
The staff at some dealerships may come and go, but customers can expect to see most of the same familiar faces when they do business at Team Dodge. Ryan has been working at Team Dodge since 1994, when he was a student at Sam Houston State University. At first, he washed cars when he wasn’t in class; by the time he graduated, he had moved into sales. He always liked cars –especially new cars–and he ultimately decided to stay. Over the years, he has helped many satisfied customers. Sometimes, they don’t bother to come in; they simply call Ryan and do business over the phone. “If you don’t want the run-around, and you want the truth upfront,” Ryan says, “that’s what we do.”
Jason joined Team Dodge in 2008. Since that time, he has sold cars to many returning customers, a well as to individuals who have been referred to him by their friends. In fact, greeting a repeat customer is something that happens almost every month. Often, it’s a customer who needs a car for a spouse, a son, or a daughter. “At big dealerships, you are just another number,” he says, “but we treat you like family.”
Joe has also worked at Team Dodge for over a decade. During that time, he has proudly overseen the successful repairs of countless vehicles. “This is a small town,” he says. “Everybody knows everybody. We want to make sure that when they leave here, they tell everybody we did a good job.””
FOR MORE INFORMATION ABOUT TEAM DODGE, VISIT WWW.TEAMHUNTSVILLE,COM