NALLEYAUTOMOTIVE of Brunswick is all about family tradition. In 1988, Jim Nalley laid the company’s foundation with that slogan in mind. After establishing the Nalley name in the area, he instilled his values in his sons and semi-retired. He has entrusted this store to General Manager Bill Redford. 

Based in Brunswick, Ga., Nalley Automotive of Brunswick has built a strong name for itself in the Golden Isles. Located about an hour south of Savannah and an hour north of Jacksonville, Fla., the company plays an active and visible role in the Golden Isles, establishing itself as the No. 1 automotive dealer in the market.

PEOPLE COME FIRST

Today, Nalley Automotive of Brunswick has Honda and Buick-GMC dealerships, as well as an Isuzu Truck division. Around 40 percent of its employees have been with the company for five years or more, impressive considering the difficulties of the recession. 

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A family business with roots stretching back to the 1930s, Mark Miller Auto Group serves the Salt Lake City area as a retailer of new and used Toyota, Scion and Subaru vehicles. The company has worked to put together a strong team of experienced sales staff and technicians that can provide customers with a high level of service and satisfaction. The company has multiple locations in Salt Lake City, as well as a location just outside of the city in the suburb of Sandy, Utah.

“We’ve always focused on customer service, as we can’t afford a single dissatisfied customer,” CEO Mark Miller says. “That is what got Toyota’s attention, as they saw our customer satisfaction numbers and knew we’d be a good fit. We have great GMs and they have free rein as long as they make customers happy. We also make the process easy with a modified version of one price at Subaru and limited negotiation for Toyota, so customers essentially see the price they will pay before they shop.” 

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To say Long-Lewis Auto Group has a long history would be an understatement. The company dates back to 1889 and a Bessemer, Ala., hardware store. In 1915, when Henry Ford began granting Ford franchises to dealers, Long-Lewis was one of the first. Over the ensuing decades, the company and its footprint continued to evolve. Today, the Long-Lewis Auto Group’s Alabama presence consists of Long-Lewis Ford Lincoln of the Shoals, Long-Lewis Mitsubishi of Florence, Long-Lewis Volkswagen of Florence, Long-Lewis Ford of the River Region (Prattville) and Long-Lewis Ford Lincoln of Hoover (Vaughn Burrell, owner).

“The Long-Lewis name has a very rich history of customer and employee satisfaction that focuses on creating a work environment that promotes employee longevity, and one that strives for complete customer satisfaction,” Owner and President Todd Ouellette says.

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Car buying is a fun experience, insists Cliff Collier, dealer manager for Howdy Honda in Austin, Texas. When a customer walks onto a lot, they should be excited and envision a new vehicle as the tool that will take them on their big family vacation or the next trip to visit grandma. The dealerships that put the car buying experience at the forefront and subsequently build trust with years of quality service will have the first shot at selling a past customer their next new car, Collier adds.

To create that relationship is to understand a customer’s expectations. Collier wants his employees to be attuned to each person’s needs, to ask the right questions and read body language. “Each prospective buyer brings their own set of needs and expectations. You have to be able to be chameleon-like in your approach to everyone who comes on the lot,” he says. But above all, Collier says the key is hiring people who care about people.

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Rebranding a retail business is a tricky enterprise to get right. Customers have to adopt the new name at the same time and be reassured they will receive the same quality products and service they have enjoyed in the past. 

Although the name Cornerstone has only been around for the past few years, the Cornerstone Auto Group is a family owned business that’s more than 50 years old. The company was founded in the early 1960s when Oran Powell built Brookdale Ford in Brooklyn Center. It was the largest Ford dealership in Minnesota for more than 35 years. 

In 1972, the company acquired Elk River Ford, its longest continuously operating store. Scott Powell, Oran’s son, became president and principal owner in 1983. Over time, the company grew to include Chrysler, Dodge, Jeep, Ram, Kia, Chevrolet and a pre-owned location in Plymouth. Up until that time, each dealership was known by the name of the town in which it was located and the manufacturer’s brand. 

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After nearly 50 years, Vaden Automotive Group stands as the largest dealer in its area, President Jane Vaden Thacher says. “We’re also a leader in innovation and forward thinking in terms of our industry,” she adds.

Savannah, Ga.-based Vaden Automotive operates dealerships for brands such as General Motors, Chevrolet, Cadillac, Buick GMC, Nissan and Volkswagen. Thacher’s father, Dan Vaden, started the company in 1968, after a long time in the industry.

Vaden began his career as a used car salesman for a Chevrolet dealership in Jacksonville, Fla. “He worked for that dealership for 17 years,” Thacher says, noting that General Motors later gave him the opportunity to open a Chevrolet store in Savannah.

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With its large selection of trailers, Utility Trailer Sales of Utah Inc. has become one of the largest semitrailer and equipment dealers in the United States. “What really sets us apart is our inventory,” President and COO Justin Deputy says. “We have the resources to invest in new and used inventory that is on the ground ready for sale. Our large facility allows us to stock a significant amount of inventory for customers to shop, at a fair price. Since we have such a large selection and conduct business with integrity and fairness, customers know to consider for all of their semitrailer needs.”

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Stephen Wade Automotive Group is an innovative auto dealership that continues to expand on its success. It primarily serves the St. George, Hurricane and Washington areas of Utah. 

“We help new car and used car buyers find the perfect vehicles to drive home in,” the company says. “After decades of service to our customers, we have become synonymous with providing a quality selection, excellent prices and friendly service. We continue to expand our ever-growing automotive service to different areas.”

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