Friday, October 7, 2016

The fire department doesn't stop at putting out the fire! Why do you?

When your local fire department arrives to put out a fire you would be correct in saying their priority is to put the fire out. In that moment wondering how the fire began is irrelevant. There could be lives still in danger or increasing damage that can be avoided. But once the fire is out where does the focus turn? Into clues of what started the fire of course. And then that concern or liability in turn becomes a part of public service announcements, community communication and training. 

In dealership operations I feel that many of us are great at putting out fires. We know how to put deals back together, appease concerned customers and get anxious employees to get back on the team bus. 

Where we need to improve is in finding out how the fire started and how to create an environment that thrives on not letting it happen again. How many times do I hear people say, "gotta love the car business" as a way to justify with dealing with the same old problems month in and month out. 

Commit yourself today to not just stop at dousing the flames next time. Commit to discovering how the fire started and how you can eliminate it from happening again. Maybe it's additional situational training, maybe it's better communication. 

Then think about the great things that you could be doing if you weren't running to the next fire.  

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Through the Eyes of a Service Customer...

People forget that although I am an automotive professional of 13 years, I've bought cars from other dealerships and I've serviced with other service centers. I've worked specifically for 5 brands across 3 dealerships, been a Lube Tech and Sales Manager for an independent repair facility but I've been a customer too.

In my own life I don't put on the eyes of a customer often enough but today I had to out of necessity.

My VW Toureg Diesel demo was giving me messages about an exhaust additive called adblue. If I didn’t add it soon, my car told me it would not start after driving 100 miles.

So without the time to drive to our VW of Gainesville store I found myself at a competitors shop near my house at 7:45 (15 minutes after open) to find my remedy. 


The Service Drive was empty and I was promptly greeted by a “trainee," a former sales guy named Chris. Chris was fairly attentive and asked fairly standard questions related to my needs. 

“Do you have an appointment?” he asked. Sitting in my customer shoes I was a bit taken back. For some reason what I really was thinking he was telling me was because I wasn’t an appointment I would not be a priority even though their service drive was empty…but we kept moving forward. He mentioned because their “system was down” he wasn’t quite sure if I could even be “written up” at that time. Again was this negative information necessary for me the customer?

Chris then took me into to meet an ASM where we repeated the exact same process we had outside. Literally we reviewed every question I was already asked. What shocked me here was:
  1. A lot of what Chris had understood from our conversation was incorrect. This caused me again to have to repeat myself which was irritating. 
  2. When I arrived at the ASM desk he did not welcome me or look up or introduce himself. Once he did engage though he seemed to want to help. He never gave me his name.
  3. "Go to parts and ask for 2 bottles of adblue and I will add it for you” he said. 
I was not walked to parts by Chris or the ASM. When I finally found the retail parts counter no one was there. There was a bell that said “ring for service.” 

I rang the bill and sat for about 2 minutes which felt like 15. I stared past the desk into a glass sliding window where I imagine either warranty or accounting staff stared back to me. I engaged with the lady in the window with a "Good Morning" and she too voiced her frustration at the “system being down" and shook her head. 

Finally someone came to the parts counter. I told him what I needed and he asked me who I was dealing with in Service. I couldn’t say of course because the ASM never gave me a name. He said, “Our system is down so I am not even sure I can sell you what you need right now.” Things were off to bad a start. This happens in our own stores (I'm sure) but I was shocked at the negative emotion and lack of “can do” attitude that had stricken the entire service staff. There was hardly a customer in their lounge; had they never discussed how life would look in the case of their DMS having issues? 

He finally returned with the two jugs of “adblue” and said “I guess I can hand write a ticket to get you moving.” 

Things start to get better. I paid cash and left promptly and returned to my car. William the ASM (I'd finally asked for his name) was already at my car with the spare removed and various nothings from my trunk removed all prepared to add the adblue (which is added under neath the spare tire). Excellent this guy is going to get me moving. He added the adblue and we made small talk. My experience was ending nicely. William hustled to get the spare back into place and showed me how I could do this myself if I ever needed to moving forward. He explained to me the benefit and he helped me load my things back into the car. 

What started as a 2 star experience ended a 4. But think of all the little tweaks that would of had me glowing about this place…

-If a customer has an appointment shouldn’t you know that before they have to tell you? 

-Are there points in your "needs analysis" where a customer is having to be unnecessarily repetitive?

-Always introduce yourself and give instant eye contact and attention to your customer

-Don’t appear to be disengaged or lost in a screen (computer, tablet or phone) when they arrive. If you have to tell them you’ll be right with them at least have introduced yourself and made eye contact. It’s reassuring. 

-Always walk a new customer to where they are going. Even better yet wait with them until someone answers the button ring or they are handed off to the proper department. 

-Things happen in business. Systems go down. Don’t place additional burden on your customer when there is an issue. They don’t need to see you sweat until they do! Be prepared (or mad at yourself that you are not prepared) in these instances. Know where you are going with the ball when it’s thrown to you so to speak. 

I tried to tip William 20 dollars and he wouldn’t accept. I appreciated his hustle and instant attention, though it got off to a slow start. I’d go back there and see him if I needed help. 

I was in and out in less than 30 minutes. 

(Full disclosure - at every point of communication at the dealership I explained to them that I was in the industry. My demo is an untitled vehicle and I had a dealer tag on the car --- sooner than later they would have found this out on their own)

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Morgan Auto Group acquires Sun Toyota

Morgan Auto Group acquires Sun Toyota & Scion

NEW PORT RICHEY, FL (February 16, 2016) – Morgan Auto Group acquired Sun Toyota & Scion earlier this afternoon from Jeff Cadwell and Dwane Johansen. The dealership is located at 3001 US Highway 19 in Holiday, Florida. The dealership name will remain the same to capitalize on the strong Sun brand reputation that owners Cadwell and Johansen have built in the Tampa Bay area.

John Marazzi has been named managing partner of Sun Toyota & Scion to oversee operations, adding to his role as managing partner at Brandon Honda. Marazzi has been a successful leader in Florida automobile dealerships for 27 years—first at Ft. Myers Toyota, Audi, Jaguar, Land Rover Fort Myers, and John Marazzi Nissan in Naples, Florida before coming to Brandon Honda.  

"I’ve known Jeff Cadwell for years, initially from our joint efforts in our community hospital system,” said Larry Morgan, CEO of Morgan Auto Group. “Jeff is a first-class gentleman who values his customers and employees alike, just as we do. He’s built a top-quality local dealership that is one of the best in the Tampa Bay area. We are looking forward to following in his footsteps and continuing to build the Sun brand of the future.”  

The hallmark of Morgan Auto Group dealerships is its keen focus on impeccable customer service and direct customer engagement in all departments. Sun customers will enjoy enhanced benefits and loyalty programs not found at other area dealerships. Service department efficiency and affordability will help guests easily blend auto maintenance into busy schedules. Plans include expanding the in-house café operation for added customer comfort and convenience.          

Today’s acquisition brings Morgan Auto Group’s auto dealership holdings to 14 over the last 10 years. In addition to Sun Toyota & Scion, the Morgan Auto Group of dealerships includes BMW of Sarasota, Brandon Honda, Ford of Port Richey, Gainesville Buick GMC, Gainesville Mitsubishi, Honda of Ocala, Honda of Gainesville, Lamborghini Sarasota, MINI of Wesley Chapel, Port Richey Mitsubishi, Toyota of Tampa Bay ǀ Scion of Tampa Bay, and Volkswagen of Gainesville, in addition to Kia of Columbia in Missouri.

Morgan Auto Group is owned by Larry Morgan and his son, Brett Morgan. Both are highly respected business and community leaders in the Tampa Bay area. Larry Morgan is past Chairman of the Florida Automobile Dealers Association, past Chairman of Bay Care Health Systems, Inc., and founder of Tires Plus. His philanthropy and community involvement include past Chairman of the Valspar PGA Championship that raises millions of dollars annually for local charities and a $5 million family gift to establish the Morgan Heart Hospital at Morton Plant Hospital. For more information, visit

Sun Toyota & Scion is located at 3001 US Highway 19 between Moog Road and Sunray Drive in Holiday, FL 34691, on the border of New Port Richey. For more information, call 727.478.0070 or visit


Thursday, February 11, 2016

The Last Days of Scion: A Dealers Perspective

In January of 2016 our Toyota of Tampa Bay store sold 22 Scions (about 8% of our New Car Volume). While that doesn't sound like a lot, we have new car franchised dealerships that play in the same relative ballpark of volume here in Florida (MINI, Buick, GMC, Mitsubishi). So was it a surprise that the Scion nameplate is going away? In many ways yes, but to a great degree it's just the right thing to do. I've seen the media misrepresent this event in their typical fashion ("Millennials are less interested in owning cars, Toyota says" Las Vegas Review Journal) and I felt that my thoughts would paint a picture closer to reality for all concerned. From a dealers perspective and a Scion owner's it's not all positive news but there is a silver lining here. 

First Impressions
Sitting in the showroom of our first Morgan Auto dealership I remember my first impressions of the Scion brand in 2004: Funky, simple to configure, no haggle (pure price) and hell bent on offering a quicker more streamlined process of car buying to the consumer (something dealerships still struggle with 11 years later). The target was younger buyers and I thought Toyota's approach was positive and proactive. Not every Scion model appealed to the target Generation X/Y consumer (xB for example) but overall the Scion brand did its job of bringing first time customers into the Toyota umbrella (70% of Scion buyers were Toyota first timers). Over the next five years I watched as Honda customers got older and Toyota's younger. Scion was a part of solving a challenge that some of Toyota's competition struggled with. 

What Scion did for Toyota
No one wants to know their average buyer's age is growing each year. Acquiring a consumer and creating brand loyalty inside of the 25-34 demo is a huge achievement in retail especially when you have more mature models to bring them into later in life (Camry, Prius, Highlander, Sienna). Plus who wants the stigma of being the most driven car on the Senior PGA Tour (think Buick, Lincoln)? We used to have Scion meetups at the dealership. Scion gave us the right to enjoy the car rally element that only exotic buyers and classic car owners enjoyed. It was always a positive talking point. Their concept models were outlandish and progressive. Then it all just seemed to go away. 

Flyer from a 2008 Scion Event at Toyota of Tampa Bay "Wicked Whips 2.0"

The Beginning of the End
Around 2009 sales began to decrease and the excitement for the brand dropped to a whisper. New Scion models didn't ignite the passion they first had and Toyota annual meetings were spent with mentions of rebooting and revitalizing the brand. Scion tC (Scion's volume model) sales fell in half. The crossover SUV segment was growing and Scion didn't have a dog in that fight. Even the fabled Toyota 86, which became the rear wheel drive Scion FR-S (great car/right price) couldn't bring back the brand. Scion had fallen into a niche and lost all aspirations of regaining growth and of becoming a "2nd dealership" for Toyota dealers. 

What is Actually Happening / Which Scion models are staying with the Toyota brand?
All Scion models will fold into the Toyota brand in 2017 save for the Scion tC which had previously been slated to be discontinued in 2016. So the Scion iA, iM and the FR-S will soon have Toyota badging. Even the Scion CH-R crossover concept will honor it's reported release but as a Toyota model instead. A Scion owners service relationship with their Toyota dealership should remain virtually unchanged. This is good news ultimately for everyone. While I do believe Scion helped bring younger buyers to Toyota over time Toyota was began to do this on their own. It's a challenge to manage two separate brand philosophies under one roof and many elements of the Scion experience are coming to Toyota anyway. 

Is the death of Scion a referendum on "Pure Price?" 
I think to a degree the death of Scion does tell us something about "Pure Price." While the consumer experience is crying out for a new way to engage, interact and ultimately buy from dealers, the appeal of Pure Price within this is overstated. In the past months Toyota has placed a renewed focus on reducing the time it takes to buy a car while encouraging dealers to take advantage of resources that allow customers to do complete a great deal of the purchase from their couch. This is a positive area of investment for dealers. Dealers are re-aligning themselves for this new reality. While there may be generational differences amongst our guests in their level of comfort with negotiation, it is my personal believe that we should trust our customers to be well researched and discerning which can lead to an efficient two way conversation about price.

Scion dealerships need to share in the blame too 
The Scion model of "Pure Price" and delivery within an hour was seldom adhered to by dealers. Competing dealers would use trade allowances, waived dealer fees and free accessories to compromise the element of "Pure Price" and buy consumer favor. Scion as a brand never got a fair look as to the success of this model simply because DEALERSHIPS failed to discipline themselves to it.

Scion: Victim of Its Own Success? 
Ironically Toyota of North America CEO Jim Lentz (and former head of Scion) foretold of this event. "Do you risk alienating the boomer buyer to get to Gen Y?" Lentz told Automotive News in 2002. Scion after all allowed Toyota to market in unconventional ways, breaking ground in event, promotional and social media marketing. "No, it's safer to create Scion and keep the boomer buyer."

He then added, "But in the future, we will have to integrate Toyota and Scion."