Humble Opinions: Keep it in the Family.

Mike Humble:

Don’t get me wrong, I am the first to complain about shoddy dealer service – its the one thing that really grinds my gears in the motor trade. Even in the present day where complaining has never been more simple, the same old tales of woe involving wonky workmanship, dodgy dealer or Shark like sales staff echo down the wire with worrying regularity. But on the flip side, I applaud those who go beyond the call of duty by impressing the individual.

If you wondered how the former Communist brands like Lada or Skoda fared so well in the eye of the customer, the answer was not because of the cars merits but the dealers themselves. Quite simply put, the cars were at best tolerable but the dealers were often doyens of customer care and satisfaction. Should the door mirror drop off your 6 month old Riva 1200L you could bet your last Rolo the dealer would mend it, clean it and deliver it back to your door – quickly!

I have a great deal of experience with fringe brand dealers owing to the fact I ran a brace of Lada`s some years back and on the whole found the two dealers proximal to my home tip top and utterly brilliant. And yet some volume brand dealers also excelled where others dismally failed. The County town of Northampton had a branch of the now defunct Henlys Group selling Rover and Leyland DAF vans, their reputation was worryingly shocking.

Just a few miles the other side of Junction 16 of the M1 in a quaint village called Weedon, resided P.J Green who also retailed the Rover brand – and had done for many years. Mike Green is a great guy who slightly expanded the premises and built a reputation so solid that customers would travel from the metropolis to buy a car rather than deal with the corporate gin palace – even if they were notably cheaper than Greens – Why? because of their unsurpassed reputation.

Small family dealers sell a piece of their integrity and reputation with every transaction – regardless of brand, and its in my honest opinion worth the extra money. Its nice to see things done properly every now and again and a good example of this was demonstrated only just recently after a friend asked me to do him a favour. His Hyundai iX35 was slightly overdue for a service but owing to said acquaintance recovering from an ankle injury, he couldn’t drive it.

He lives on the South Coast near Worthing and the dealer was in Sutton (SW London) and despite the supplying dealer being close to Gatwick, the Sutton branch were notably cheaper – enough to be worth the trip. I had to drive to his residence, pick him and the car up, drive to Sutton, collect the courtesy car and kill a couple of hours while they performed the service. First impressions count every time and upon arriving, we were both impressed.

My mates loves his iX35 - And his new found family dealer even more!
My mate loves his iX35 – And his new found family dealer even more!

A small but happy little dealer that despite being very busy, was clean, tidy and friendly. The lady on the service desk was funny and friendly as was her colleague who ran the parts desk next to her. We collected the courtesy car and were given an estimate of when the car would be ready for collection – but they did forewarn they were a man down and extremely busy in the workshop. Despite this, the car was ready a little over two hours later and immaculately presented.

The car had been treated to a mini valet and a neat little Hyundai Scented Berry freshener swung merrily from the interior mirror – and it was effective too. A prime example of how well these small family dealers work at keeping their staff motivated and more important of all – ensuring their customers keep flocking back. This is not a blatant advertisement for the dealer in question – Belmont Hyundai, think if more like a tribute for the right way of doing things.

Many of these smaller family run dealers had their franchises stripped in the buoyant times as the manufacturers yearned for huge glass cathedrals owned by PLC companies in a bid to shift more and more metal. That’s fine when the going is good, but when the course goes soft those high ceilings also mean high overheads. The smaller family operated businesses with their lower cost bases and impressive attitudes can ride the storm, but sadly there’s not enough of them left to go round.

One thing is worth considering… a dealer who goes the extra mile is worth travelling the extra mile – everyone wins… everyone is satisfied – every time!

Click here: Belmont Hyundai of Sutton

One comment

  1. Skoda have turned their back on these family dealers, many who have been loyal to the brand for nigh on 30-odd years, in favour of the PLC’s in glass showrooms, and customer care is slipping dramatically. In Yorkshire, all bar 2 dealers are owned by 1 company, which is not good for the customer, as they can tightly control prices. Once the Skoda bubble bursts, these huge dealers will start to struggle

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