When Mike Cunningham drove from his home in San Jacinto County to Team Dodge Chrysler Jeep in 2000, he didn’t have high expectations. When he had previously purchased new vehicles in Houston and in other states, he’d felt like sales representatives were interested only in making quick sales. “They didn’t care about making a lasting relationship,” Mike says.
Mike, however, had driven more than two times the allotted miles in the Jeep he had leased from a dealership in Houston, and he needed a new vehicle. Because of the bad experiences he’d had in the past, he asked to speak directly to the sales manager at Team Dodge.
During the next few days, Mike worked extensively with Ryan Gimpel, sales manager, and Sam McCann, used car manager. To Mike’s surprise, Ryan and Sam seemed genuinely concerned about his situation, helping him end his lease agreement and buy a new Jeep.
“It impressed me so much that they were concerned beyond the sale,” Mike says. “The impression was a lasting one.” Since his initial trip to Team Dodge in 2000, Mike, a site manager for James M. Barb Construction Company, has purchased several new vehicles—some for his business, and others for his wife and son. The relationship works both ways, Mike says, and he now paints the Christmas decorations on the windows at the dealership.
“I only have one dealership,” Mike says, “and that’s Team Dodge.”
Great Car-Buying Experiences
Ryan and the sales staff at Team Dodge Chrysler Jeep appreciate repeat customers like Mike, so they strive to make auto buying experiences pleasant; their goal is to help customers find vehicles that will suit their needs and fit their budgets. It must be working—according to Chrysler’s data, approximately 80 percent of Team Dodge’s business is derived from repeat customers or referrals.
“We don’t pressure people to buy a car,” Ryan says. “We just try to give them what they want, with no pressure and no pestering. We do follow up, but we don’t wear them out like some dealers do. I think everybody has had a bad experience buying a car at least once. We try to avoid this being one of those experiences.”
One way the sales staff makes customers happy is by showing them only vehicles in their price range—not those that are beyond their financial reach. “We try to figure out what they need, what they want, and what they can afford. It’s easier to go up than to go down,” Ryan says. “We want them to be happy with what they buy.”
Some customers like Jeeps; others have come to appreciate highly-ranked Dodge and Chrysler cars and mini-vans. Some customers are fans of Ram trucks, such as the 1500 Crew Cab, which has been Motor Trend’s Truck of the Year for the past two years. (It’s the only time a truck has won this award for two consecutive years.)
For some customers, however, the best solution is a pre-owned vehicle. Team Dodge has many quality pre-owned vehicles in stock, and customers are assured that they are in good working condition. “We have a 127-point inspection,” Sam says. “We don’t just throw them out there.” Vehicles are put on the pre-owned lot only after any potential problems are identified and repaired.
Whether they’re looking for new or pre-owned vehicles, customers find highly-competitive prices at Team Dodge. Because the dealership isn’t located on acres of expensive, big-city real estate, its low overhead can often be passed on to buyers in the form of lower prices. Many buyers, Ryan says, find attractive prices at Team Dodge on the Internet and drive to Huntsville from surrounding areas to buy their vehicles at the dealership. Several customers have even traveled from Corpus Christi to buy from Team Dodge.
Although the sales staffs at some dealerships experience high turnover, returning customers can expect to see most of the same faces when they do business with Team Dodge. Ryan himself has been working at Team Dodge for 20 years. He began working part-time at the dealership under previous ownership while he was a criminal justice major at Sam Houston State University. He washed cars and soon became his manager’s personal assistant. After he graduated from SHSU, he joined the sales staff. When an opportunity arose with the Border Patrol in El Paso, he opted to stay in Huntsville to continue working at the dealership.
The service department at Team Dodge Chrysler Jeep also boasts many repeat customers and an experienced staff. Its director of eight years, Joe Miller, is a Huntsville native and graduate of SHSU who seems to know everybody in town. “We like to know everybody by their first name if possible,” Joe says.
The service department at Team Dodge has a large waiting area with comfortable seating and big screen TVs. The staff, however, realizes that some people don’t have time to wait for service, so they provide a shuttle van that can take people to work or to class; if needed, customers can also be picked up at the end of the day.
Team Dodge’s service department provides basic service (such as oil changes, and replacement of belts, hoses and brakes) for all makes and models; it is also a state inspection center. If vehicles need body work, they are referred to Danny Brown’s Paint and Body, an off-site body shop with the same ownership as Team Dodge.
“When people come in for basic service, we provide what we call a 27-point inspection,” Joe says. Service technicians report any items that require immediate attention, as well as service that will be needed in the near future. For example, if brake pads are beginning to show wear, service technicians will advise customers so that they’ll be prepared to replace them a few months later.
“A lot of dealerships try to upsell things,” Joe says. “We are not trying to sell them things they don’t need, but we take care of the service that they need. This is a small town. Everybody knows everybody. We want to make sure that when they leave here, they tell everybody we did a good job.”