Diversify your drive
There will be plenty of exciting new vehicles hitting the road this fall—and plenty of options for car buyers to choose from.
T.J. Johnson, general sales manager for Smart Motors, says that his dealership offers the full line of Toyota cars, trucks and vans, and is considered the hybrid dealer of the Midwest.
According to Johnson, hybrids—vehicles that use a combination of gas and electric power—have been very popular over the past decade. “Cars in the Toyota hybrid family, including the Prius C, Prius V, and Prius Plug-In, are extremely fuel efficient, averaging over fifty miles per gallon in town,” Johnson says. “When I started with Smart Motors in 2006, there was a two year waiting list for the cars.” Additional hybrids in the Toyota lineup include the Avalon hybrid, Camry hybrid, and Highlander hybrid.
Prius owners tend to have strong brand loyalty. “They are heavy repeat buyers,” says Johnson. “Almost eighty percent of our customers come back to us to purchase another Prius. Young professionals, newlyweds, families—individuals from all walks of life gravitate to Toyota’s lineup of hybrid vehicles because they meet their daily transportation needs. Prius owners also enjoy the money savings at the gas pump.”
Another potential reason for such strong response to the car is the delivery process. “We have dedicated orientation specialists who see to it that our customers understand the vehicle’s technology very well,” says Johnson. “They go over the car with you, explain how everything works in detail; they will even go to your house and give you a tour of your new vehicle or meet with you a month after you’ve picked up the keys. They want to make sure that each customer is thrilled with their Prius experience.”
Smart Toyota has earned Toyota’s coveted President’s Cabinet Award from Toyota Motor Sales. The award is given to the top twelve dealerships nationwide, and recognizes superior customer service and sales satisfaction. “We are the only dealership in Wisconsin to ever earn this award,” says Johnson. “It’s a testament to our dealership’s philosophy: to make every customer’s experience of purchasing a new vehicle fun and enjoyable.”
John Bergstrom, founder and CEO of Bergstrom Automotive, says he is 100 percent committed to providing outstanding guest service. Bergstrom believes that building long-term relationships is the differentiator in the very competitive and fast-changing automotive dealership business.
Since 1982, Bergstrom Automotive has grown from a start-up, single-point Chevrolet dealership to an organization that now represents every new car brand that sells more than five thousand cars per year in America. “The 1,500 members of our team are strongly committed to this business philosophy,” Bergstrom explains, “and it has served us well; we are now one of the top fifty dealer groups in the U.S.”
Bergstrom Automotive’s latest guest treatment initiative has been the construction and implementation of a reservation center that responds within seventeen seconds to all guest emails and telephone calls for an appointment for service, body shop, or inquiries about new and used cars.
“We love doing business in Wisconsin,” Bergstrom says. “This state has an outstanding labor force and loyal business guests.”
Steve Wencel has been selling cars for Zimbrick for twenty-five years. “I applied for the job while my car was in for service. I loved the way Zimbrick did business, and I’ve been here since,” he says.
Wencel notes that the Buick brand is seeing a resurgence, as their cars have evolved from the “land yachts” of decades past and the company has upped its focus on smaller luxury cars. “Buick has always been known for big, comfortable, luxury-style cars. Now there’s a totally different product mix,” Wencel says.
Since 2011, Buick has introduced the Regal, the Verano and, most recently, a small luxury SUV Encore. “Sales have really exploded,” Wencel says. He attributes Buick’s popularity and longevity to the cars’ smooth, quiet ride, expanded safety features, and cutting-edge technology.
A top safety pick in its class, a Buick may be outfitted with side blind-zone alerts, front collision alerts, active cruise control, active braking, and ultrasonic rear-park assist.
For Wencel, the changes in automotive features and design over the course of his career have been remarkable. “When I started, the most expensive car on the lot was $24,000, fully loaded; back then, remote keyless entry was a revolutionary feature,” he says. “Now GMCs and Buicks all have OnStar Systems—one of the finest safety devices that’s ever come out on a vehicle. You can download an app to start your car from anywhere. It’s amazing.”
Scott Ericson, sales manager for Zimbrick Nissan, has been selling new and Nissan-certified pre-owned vehicles for only two years, but he has twenty years of experience in the automotive sales business. He explains that he was initially attracted to the Zimbrick family of dealerships because, “the company has such a great reputation for integrity, excellent service, and customer satisfaction. I live in Rockton, Illinois, and the Zimbrick name is well-known, even that far south. As dealers we are committed to creating long-term relationships with customers, informed by our core values and ethics. There’s also a deep level of respect for fellow employees.”
Ericson says the Nissan line is worthy of praise. “Our cars are very dependable, and require limited maintenance. They really combine the best of both style and technology,” he notes. “And with eighteen different models in different sizes and price ranges, we’ve got a Nissan for every type of customer.”
These days, Ericson is talking to a lot of customers about the Nissan Altima. “It is our spotlight vehicle; it is where excitement meets affordability,” he says. “The styling of the Altima truly stands out in its market segment. Throw in technology, comfort, roominess and economy with up to thirty-eight miles per gallon, it all adds up for Nissan’s best-selling and top-recommended vehicle.”
Chris Vande Zande, the new- and used-car sales manager at Zimbrick Hyundai, has been with the company for about ten years. This fall, he’s excited about the all-new 2015 Hyundai Sonata and the fully redesigned Genesis, now with a more stylish modern look, a redesigned interior, and added all-wheel drive.
“These cars get great gas mileage, they are fun to drive, and they have America’s best warranty,” Vande Zande says. “Hyundai really stands behind their cars.” In fact, the brand was recently named No. 1 car manufacturer for initial quality by J.D. Power and Associates. “And with a price range of $15,000 to $60,000, they appeal to everyone from the sixteen-year-old who is buying his first car, to an eighty-year-old who has been driving for decades,” Vande Zande adds.
When preparing to buy a new car, Vande Zande’s advice is to do plenty of research ahead of time and to “buy what you like—don’t buy a certain model simply based on hype.” Test driving a few cars is also a good idea, he says. “Try them out. Find someone you want to work with, who you trust, and then get behind the wheel to find the perfect fit.”
Brian Robbins got a subscription to Road and Track Magazine when he was only eight years old. So it’s no surprise that he has been selling Porsches at Zimbrick European for almost two decades. “I’ve had a lot of my clients for a long time,” he says. In fact, thanks to steadily growing demand, the dealership has expanded and upgraded its facility with the first Concept Four showroom design in the Midwest.
The cars, which are still built largely by hand in two factories in Germany, are known for their quality. But Robbins believes that Porsche’s enduring popularity can be summed up more simply: they are engaging to drive.
Increasingly, the cars are combining entertainment with utility. “If you need a midsize SUV or a sports car, Porsches have a fun factor built in,” he says. “The Boxster and Cayman actually have two trunks. If you want to take a long weekend and go up to the cabin, you have room for two suitcases and your golf clubs, with the top down.”
According to Robbins, the Macan, a crossover utility vehicle which launched this summer, has also been a tremendous hit with both consumers and industry experts. “I’m pre-selling cars into fall and winter,” he notes, “and the brand will follow up in November with the new Cayenne, featuring an updated look with the performance of an SUV; it can even tow a big boat.”
Robbins notes that all models share an important attribute. “Porsches are all very entertaining to drive,” he says. “The whole product line is really fun. There is no substitute.”
Clint Lenz, a sales manager for Zimbrick Buick and GMC who specializes in trucks, is very excited about the new Canyon, coming out this fall. “It’s a mid-size truck, perfect for young suburban buyers who are looking for something smaller,” he says. “This truck is easy to park and easy to maneuver, but big enough to transport a lawnmower across town, or haul brush. It’s a huge opportunity for us and our customers.”
Lenz is also selling a lot of GMC Sierras to customers who are interested in a truck with good fuel economy, V8 power, and significant towing capacity.
One thing Lenz says might surprise potential buyers is the sound inside his trucks and SUVs. He explains “using Buick’s fine tuning, they keep getting quieter cabins. You can talk on your phone with Bluetooth, with virtually no road noise.”
Lenz notes that, as a general trend, Buick and GMC are offering more high-tech options on their vehicles so consumers can integrate car and truck radios with their smartphones, use voice text and voice recognition features, and hands-free communication. “The 2015 models will all be equipped with OnStar and built-in Wi-Fi hotspots in every vehicle,” he says.
When asked what attracted him to a Zimbrick dealership, Lenz talks about colleague and customer relationships. “Even though they have sixteen franchises, the company is still run like a family business. There are no high pressure tactics. People are amazed at how comfortable they are when they are here,” he says. “We care about our customers. They are not just a number on a sheet. We try to educate you on your vehicle options, so we can find the right fit. Once we find a car that you really like, we want you to service the vehicle here, and then come back in four to six years and buy another car or truck from us.”
For Alicia Stevenson, the best part of her job as sales manager at Zimbrick Hyundai West is working with guests and helping them with their vehicle purchases. “Buyers are looking for a vehicle that will hold its value and be a cool ride around town,” she says. “That makes Hyundai a great choice. Hyundai is hassle-free. Along with the ten-year/100,000 mile warranty, the cost of ownership is very low.”
Stevenson adds that her dealership offers one year, or 15,000 miles, of oil changes free with every new Hyundai purchase. They also have a top-rated service department that will handle any vehicle repairs after the purchase is complete.
Looking ahead to this fall, Stevenson is excited about the 2015 Sonata. “It has a modern, sculptural look that sets it apart,” she says. “The Sonata also has class-leading passenger and interior space, as well as high-tech options like a lane-departure warning system, blind-spot detection, and touch-screen navigation.”
Stevenson values Zimbrick’s long history in the community—the company has been a part of Madison for forty-nine years—and believes her customers value it, too. “We have a close connection to this area,” she explains. “Madison-area residents trust us with their automotive needs knowing that we continually reinvest in the community through corporate giving—not just money but, also, time.
According to Derek Austin, of Zimbrick Mercedes-Benz, customers often identify the brand with high-end luxury, the utmost comfort, and quality. But the vehicles produced by Mercedes Benz also excel in safety, fuel efficiency, and cutting-edge technology. This fall, customers will see those qualities embodied in a completely redesigned 2015 C-Class.
The biggest C-Class to date, this new model has two new engines to deliver more power and better fuel efficiency. It will also offer many new safety and technology features (some standard, some optional), including keyless-go, heads-up display, active blind-spot monitoring, and lane-track assist. It even has cruise control that not only allows the vehicle to see the traffic in front of you and keep a safe distance, but also see the bends in the road so it can actually steer through the curve and make sure you stay centered in your lane. Additional high-tech options include a 360-degree camera system for parking or maneuvering in tight spaces, a safety system that alerts the driver when she or he becomes drowsy, and a warning system to prevent pedestrian or cross-traffic accidents.
This fall, Mercedes-Benz will also introduce the new GLA. This sporty, hip crossover is designed to appeal to a younger demographic—one that may not have considered the brand before.
“It’s an exciting time here at Zimbrick Mercedes-Benz,” says Austin, “and we can’t wait to share it with all of our customers.”
Stephen Newby is proud to be part of the sales team at Zimbrick Chevrolet. The Sun Prairie location, which opened in September of last year, is the most recent addition to the Zimbrick family.
Newby focuses on providing an outstanding level of personalized service to clients—beginning, he says when “they make the decision to come to the dealership to begin their car search.”
Currently, he is excited about the Chevy Equinox, a midsize crossover SUV and a top-seller at Zimbrick Chevrolet. It is available in all-wheel drive or front-wheel drive, gets thirty-two miles per gallon on the highway, has seating for five with a spacious cargo area, Bluetooth technology, and Chevrolet’s MyLink radio. A backup camera is also available as an option. The Equinox comes with a standard 2.4 liter, four-cylinder engine, but can be upgraded to a 3.6 liter, six-cylinder engine. The car also received a top safety rating by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.
“If you are interested in a sharp-looking crossover with a great price point, comfort, technology, super gas mileage and top safety ratings, the Equinox is certainly one you need to come and drive,” Newby says.
David Mueller, of Zimbrick BMW, characterizes his clients as, “anyone who appreciates the very best the sport-luxury car segment has to offer.” But Mueller admits that within this segment, customers are also looking for cars with active safety systems and better fuel economy.
In response, BMW has launched its “i” brand this year, focusing on fully sustainable transportation with uncompromised driving dynamics. As a result, says Mueller, “BMW customers can join the electric or hybrid car ranks and still have the BMW driving experience they’ve come to expect.”
Made from lightweight materials such as aluminum, carbon-fiber reinforced plastic, and other recycled products, the fully electric BMW i3 can go from zero to sixty miles per hour in just over seven seconds, with zero emissions. It has a range of eighty to one hundred miles, and can be recharged in just three hours. The range extender (REx) option is also available. Powered by a two-cylinder gasoline engine with a small fuel tank, it engages when the battery level drops to a pre-specified point, acting purely as a generator to produce electricity to extend the range from one hundred sixty to one hundred eighty miles in everyday driving conditions. “It’s a tremendous commuter car,” says Mueller. “A great car for the city.”
When asked about his affinity for the brand, Mueller responds, “I have always been a fan of BMW, so this job was a natural fit for me.”
Dave Kummer has been selling new, used, and pre-owned vehicles with Zimbrick Audi for twelve years, and has been with the organization for more than twenty years. He sees his longevity with the brand as a real asset for his customers. “It’s nice to have consistency, and to work with someone who really knows the product line,” he says.
A longtime advocate of the brand, Kummer explains that Audi has been building cars for a century, and as part of the Volkswagen group. They have been available in the United States since the late 1960s. Built in Germany and intended to be driven on that country’s autobahn system at speeds of more than one hundred miles per hour, Audis are very durable and safe, while also incorporating high-quality finishes and luxurious details in the design. Perfect for car buyers in the Midwest, Audis have all-wheel drive that easily maneuvers through any weather conditions, including snow and rain.
“Right now the A3 sedan is very popular,” says Kummer. “It was built specifically for the American market. It’s a great value for a luxury car and attractive to a wide audience, from millennials to empty-nesters.”
This fall, Audi will introduce the Q3, a crossover vehicle with lots of room. “It’s a really nice size, and it’s equally good for driving around town and on the highway,” says Kummer. “The Audi S3 features a high-performance, 292-horsepower engine in a very nice package.”
Many of Kummer’s customers are actually referrals from other, very satisfied Audi owners. “Many times potential buyers come to me because they have a friend who bought one,” he says. “They ride in an Audi and really enjoy the car. It’s safe, it’s fun to drive. It’s a great luxury automobile.”