Amy: 00:06 [music] Hi. So I’m Amy with Think Creative. I’m here at Simi Valley Chevrolet with Jeff. He’s the General Manager. Hi, Jeff. Welcome.
Jeff: 00:11 Hi.
Amy: 00:12 This is a Simi Valley Chevrolet podcast. So, Jeff, it’s so exciting to have a chance to sit down with you. I’ve been looking forward to having the chance to talk with you. I’ve heard a lot about you from my colleagues. So I would love the chance to just hear a little bit about your background. What brought you to Simi Valley Chevrolet?
Jeff: 00:29 Well, I’ve only been here about a year and a half. I was the General Manager for the competition to this store, the closest dealership here. And what I watched was is I watched– I was the dominant one in the district. In other words, we sold more cars than anybody else did at my other dealership. But I watched this one creeping up on us and I thought, “Oh, my gosh, something’s going on there.” And I literally met with the general sales manager at this dealership at the time and somebody else, and we kind of got together. And I was buying the other dealership. I was purchasing it, and it wasn’t going the way that I had anticipated it to go. So what I did was is I thought, “Well, this isn’t going to work.” It’s kind of like a marriage. It’s like, “This isn’t going to–” and I didn’t want to get divorced but it’s like one of those where, “I can pick who I want to be a partner with.” So then I came in to the– I was introduced to the managers, the executive managers, and the owner here, and I liked his philosophy. I liked his business model. I liked everything else. So what I did was is I literally came in here at a different position actually, like three, four levels down. I was a General Manager for 16 years, 17 years before that, and I took a way lesser position just to get into the organization. And as fate would have it or whatever, after a short time, I was actually– for eight months, they offered me the General Manager position. So now all of a sudden, I’m the general manager of the dealership that was the major competition. Yeah.
Amy: 02:22 Your main competition. Wow. That’s a story. So what about the store are you proud of? What makes you proud of this store, Simi Valley Chevrolet?
Jeff: 02:31 There’s so many aspects of it. I like it because number one, and you’re going to hear this from every person that you’re probably ever going to talk to, is that we care about customers. I have a personal thing about customers. I used to be a pastor.
Amy: 02:48 Oh. Okay.
Jeff: 02:49 Yeah. I was a pastor in my 20s for 10 years.
Amy: 02:52 Wow. Okay.
Jeff: 02:52 And so I have a heart for people. That’s kind of what you do, not to be religious or anything because–
Amy: 03:00 Right.
Jeff: 03:00 But I think during that time is that you really learn how to have compassion and empathy and understand people and their problems and their situations and everything else. So when I got in the car business, I worked my way up from – how do you want to say it? – a salesperson and so on and so forth, and I just gravitated toward people and giving them the best experience I possibly could. Well, my promotions were pretty quick and as I kind of escalated up the ladder type thing is I brought that with me, and I pretty much wanted everybody else to see my vision and my goal and the importance of that. So because of where I came from, I was kind of a horse of a different color, not the typical car salesman where everybody is afraid of them or think that they’re a liar or a cheater or steals or anything else. I had a General Manager of mine when I was a salesperson and he said, “You don’t have to lie, cheat, steal, or misrepresent to be a car salesman.” And the only reason I took the job being a car salesman is I– “Okay. Let me try that.” And sure enough, it worked. People were looking for somebody when they walk on the lot that they could put their guard down, that they could trust, and that they could go, “Wow. I’m really glad that we met you because we came from this dealership or we came from this dealership or whatever, and you’re kind of a breath of fresh air.” So as I went up the ladder, I tried to convey that same attitude toward all of my stuff. So I’m proud that we look at customers the way that customers I think want to be treated, and we genuinely feel that and sense that.
Amy: 04:46 You see customers as people and not just customers.
Jeff: 04:48 Yeah. Well, and I always tell– people say, “Well, is this a good car?” and I go, “Well, I’ve got five grown kids and 10 grandkids. I would sell this car to my daughter because she’s got three of my grandkids or two of my grandkids.” And I wouldn’t say that if I didn’t believe it because I wouldn’t do that. So, yeah. And so I’m proud of my staff, whether it be a service adviser, whether it be a porter, whether it be a salesman, everybody here has kind of taken on the philosophy of that, so I’m pretty proud of that. We’re kind of different, right? I mean–
Amy: 05:23 Yeah. And I feel that vibe here. Yeah.
Jeff: 05:25 –and dealers still tell you that, “Oh–” I mean, they’ll give you lip service on that one. Mine’s coming from a genuine heart.
Amy: 05:33 Love it. Perfect. Do you have any goals? I mean, you said you’ve only been here for a year and a half. So what are some of the goals, the things you’d like to see happen in the store coming up?
Jeff: 05:42 A couple things. I want the salespeople to adopt my philosophy, obviously, more and more and more. I want everybody to grow into the position that they want. And the only way they’re going to do that is to sell cars, satisfy the public, take care of the public needs and stuff, and that’s important. So ultimate goal is to groom, Amy, for being whatever position that you are in. If you are one of my– I don’t care if you’re in the office. I don’t know if you’re a greeter. I don’t care. Whatever. Where is it you see yourself in two years, three years, four years, five years? I want to be the vehicle– I want this place to be the vehicle that gets you there. And actually, I would like to exceed your expectations because what that’ll do is– if I care about you and I can help you get to where you envision where you want to be, then you’re going to create loyalty and you’re going to come alongside us to all of us reach our goals. And that’s a good philosophy.
Amy: 06:46 Yeah. Yeah. Wow. I love that. So what are you excited about coming up for the store this year? Anything coming out?
Jeff: 06:53 Well, this is going to be a challenging year I think for the car industry, right?
Amy: 06:58 As a whole.
Jeff: 06:59 Yeah. It is. What we’ve done is we’ve been able to get– not to brag, we’ve been able to get more and more market share. In other words, the people in Simi Valley, they shop us first and then they go out of Simi Valley because it’s kind of a bedroom community. I mean, we have a lot of doctors and nurses and teachers, and we have a lot of people that go to LA or they go to the Valley or they go someplace us. But this is a bedroom community. They live here. They shop here. They’re around here. So the people that live in LA and stuff, they don’t necessarily want to car shop in LA. But what they’ll do is they’ll think because it’s a metropolitan area that they’ll get better deals. So they’ll come here first, they’ll get out prices, and then they’ll go to LA to see if LA can beat the price and stuff. We all pay the same for the cars. I mean, every dealership pays the same in California. So it’s not about the price necessarily.
Jeff: 07:54 So my goal, based on what I said before, is that, not to be cliche but if you treat somebody with respect, and you give them a good price, and you’re not condescending, and you don’t play the back-and-forth game and all the different things that go on, then more times out of not, people will probably buy because they buy people. People buy people. They don’t necessarily buy price. They’ll buy the car but, I mean, if you do things nicely to people, you treat them kindly, then they might not shop someplace else and that’s what we want. Why go to LA and get beat up by somebody who doesn’t care because you’re 40, 50, 30 miles away, whatever it is? Why not keep your money local, deal with us? If you like us, you’re going to like the sales department, you’re going to love the service department. And if you came here for service first, you’re going to love the sales department because maybe you didn’t buy your car from us. Maybe you did go to LA and get it, but you come here because we’re the local. We can do the warranty work. We can do the customer pay. We can do the maintenance. We can do all that stuff. But our service department has the same philosophy so once they do that, they kind of go, “Well, this is my home dealership. I’m not going to go anywhere else. I’m going to shop here.”
Jeff: 09:12 So having that transformation and keeping that going for this year, 2019, when bank’s interest rates are going up, people are a little more hesitant. A lot of people are trading their cars in earlier and earlier which means they have negative equity. So you get a 72-month loan and in 36 months, your needs change or you see a new style that you want. It’s like, “Okay. I still have three years left on my loan or four years left on my loan. Can I get out of that and get the new, nicer, cooler vehicle?” Well, if there’s a way to do it, we want to work with you and work with the banks and everything else and see if we can get you what you’re dreaming about. That’s our main goal.
Amy: 09:57 Sounds good. So you’re looking to keep that up this year–
Jeff: 09:59 Yeah. I mean, that’s–
Amy: 10:00 –and continue that.
Jeff: 10:00 –that’s an ongoing process. When everybody’s saying that the market is going to change, we want to increase that and keep the Simi Valley people in Simi Valley and let them know that they can trust us and that we have their interest at heart or first before ours, you know?
Amy: 10:17 Yeah. Absolutely. So as you know, sometimes, consumers do have a negative view of dealerships. What’s something that you wish that they understood about a dealership and how it works?
Jeff: 10:31 Customer sees a– because the media is so– I mean, the advertising and social media and our advertising and everything else. We’ll give you a price that’s X amount of dollars off, and then they’ll come in and they’ll go, “I’m here for the price. How much more can you take off?” Okay. Well, if my price was higher than other places, you wouldn’t be here, right?
Amy: 11:01 Right.
Jeff: 11:01 So since my price is probably lower than everybody else, that’s why you’re here. So why don’t we leave it at that? “Well, I’m not buying it at that. I want you to do better.” Our response is, “Once again, you’re here because of what the price was. If we had a– if we had another thousand dollars that we could do it, whatever, I would advertise that price to get you in here because that would even be lower than anybody else around.” So even though people say that they don’t want to negotiate, people want to negotiate and they usually start the negotiations. Nobody comes in here– we have what’s called an MSRP, manufacturer’s suggested retail price. People come in here and they say, “How much is the car?” If we pointed to that and said, “That’s what it is,” people would be insulted and they would leave where you and I can go into a restaurant or a store and they say, “This is the price,” and we’ll go, “Yeah, but what can you do better than that? Can you do better than that?” I mean, what would they do to you? They’d laugh at you. But we have to go, “Sorry. Okay. You’re right. This is the internet price or this is the discounted price, and this is the Simi Savings.” We call it the Simi Savings.
Jeff: 12:25 And then we’re going to give you a rebate, and we’re going to literally put that VIN number in the computer, and we’re going to look up every rebate that you could qualify for so we could get you the best. And we get you the best and then they go, “I’m going to go someplace else and I’m going to go– because I don’t think that’s– that’s not cheap enough.” It’s like we don’t want anybody to leave but there’s a point where– like a parent, like I said, I got five kids. It’s like it’s the point where you got to say no because you can’t do it, and I wish people would understand that. We don’t want to do the back and forth. We don’t want that. But once again, I know people come in like this, like, “Oh, my gosh. You’re a car dealer. You’re going to try to steal from me and you’re not going to give me what I want for my trade.” We don’t want to play those games. We want to treat you with respect. We want to give you this trade number and stuff, and honestly, people don’t get that. They start the negotiations. We don’t.
Amy: 13:25 Oh. Great. That’s interesting. Yeah. That would be challenging. Yeah. So just to wrap things up, and thank you very much for your time so far today, what makes Chevrolet such a great brand?
Jeff: 13:37 When I came out to California from Ohio, I was 18 years old. I got a job. Back in the day, it was like a buck 65 an hour was the minimum wage, and I got hired in 1974 at a Chevy dealership to wash cars. And I fell in love with the brand there just because of my dad. My dad was in the Navy, did three tours in Vietnam, and my dad was a Chevy guy. I happened to work at a Chevy so as a porter, I got to wash all the new cars and get inside of them and small all the new smells and got to put gas in them and got to watch them go from three miles to four miles. That’s a brand new car and I was 18 years old. It’s like, “How can you not?” So Chevy was a good brand back then. The automobile business has gone through so many changes with all the imports when we had gas shortage and you had to be in line for gas on your odd and even days according to your license plate. Way before your time. And then the Japanese came along and Honda and Toyota and they started– because they got better gas mileage than the big boats of the domestic cars.
Jeff: 14:52 So what’s cool is that here I am now in my 60s, and in my estimation, Chevrolet– and I’ve been with other dealerships. I mean, I’ve been with other brands. Don’t get me wrong. I mean, I’ve tried the Toyotas for 10 years. I tried the Lexus. I mean, I’ve been with the Chrysler and Jeeps and stuff but when it came to coming back to Chevy, it’s like, “I started my career there. I’m going to end my career here in Chevrolet.” The diversification, the quality of the build, everything about Chevrolet to me is America. It’s a quality product because we have big trucks and little trucks, and we have electric vehicles and we have Corvettes and fast cars, and we have sedans. And we have something for everybody, whether you’re a college student if this is your first car to you’re an old far or an old whatever you are, and you’re a trucker truck, or you’re a speed demon and you got to have the fastest Corvette or the fastest– we have it all for you. Or you’re, no disrespect, the treehugger and the electric person, and you just, “Okay. I want 250 miles to the gallon.” I mean, not miles but the miles to the charge and everything else. I got that for you, too. So it’s kind of the best. Nobody else is diversified as us, nobody, so it’s kind of cool to be that diversified and to be an American domestic car brand.
Amy: 16:25 I love that. Well, thank you so much for your time today, Jeff. It is an absolute pleasure to talk to you, and we know that all of the listeners will have enjoyed this interview as well. So stay tuned for more from Simi Valley Chevrolet podcast.
Jeff: 16:36 Thank you [music].