When it comes to their cars, most people want to deal with a dealer and service provider they know they can trust. That’s why Alaska Sales & Service is one of the state’s most successful auto dealerships. Having provided sales and service for GM vehicles in Anchorage since 1944, the dealership predates Alaska’s becoming a state, and the success that it has demonstrated over the past 70 years are a good indication that it will continue to be a strong presence in Alaska’s auto market for many years to come. 

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For Boston-based Village Automotive, success in the automobile dealership industry has been less of a goal and more of a journey. As the company celebrates 50 years in the business, Owner and President Ray Ciccolo says the company’s growth stems from a simple philosophy. 

“You don’t have this kind of longevity without having integrity,” Ciccolo says. “Because there are a lot of land mines in this business, you have to make the right decisions. I’m sure I’ve made my share of mistakes, but I’ve made more good decisions than bad decisions.”

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Nacarato Volvo Trucks recently built a state-of-the-art dealership to enhance its services and plans to open two additional locations this year to accommodate its customers on the road. “We understand the importance of the truck and go above and beyond to see what we can get done for our customers,” Vice President Joe Nacarato says. 

Mike Nacarato Sr. founded the family owned business in 1976 and today the La Vergne, Tenn.- based company is owned and operated by his two sons, Mike and Joe. “Both of us have been associated with the trucking industry since we were young,” Joe Nacarato says. “I started working at the dealership when I was 12 years old. I would stock the parts, wash trucks and sweep the floors.”

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Believe it or not, there are many similarities between NCAA Division I college football and running an auto dealership. James Church is now the president of Freedom Automotive, but earlier in his life, he was an all-star wide receiver at the University of Richmond in the mid-1980s. His experiences as a top collegiate athlete and in the automotive industry have shown him just how characteristics like teamwork and sacrifice can lead to success on and off the field.

“I thought my path would take me to the NFL, but after that didn’t pan out I started in this industry with Ford Motor Credit,” Church says. “I got to know Scott and Teri Rigell, who owned Freedom Automotive. I admired them a great deal and came to work for them, starting by selling cars and working my way to the top. When Scott was elected to Congress, he brought me in to serve as president.”

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Findlay Automotive Group operates with a sales strategy that is focused strongly on customer satisfaction, CFO and COO Tyler Corder says. “We thrive a lot on repeat business and referral business,” he says. “It’s important for us to have real happy customers.”

Based in Henderson, Nev., Findlay Automotive Group operates car dealerships for multiple brands, including Lamborghini, Audi, Chevrolet and Kia. Founder Pete Findlay started the company in 1961 as Pete Findlay Oldsmobile.

Today, “We’ve got 27 dealerships in four states,” Corder says, adding that Findlay Automotive Group employs a staff of approximately 1,400 workers and enjoyed sales of $1.25 billion last year.

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In Birmingham, Ala., no one understands Chevrolets more than Edwards Chevrolet. For nearly a century, the dealership has been one of the leaders in the Birmingham market, and owner Lee Edwards says it has held the No. 1 position in the city for the past two decades. The longevity and success Edwards Chevrolet has enjoyed over the years are the result of years of hard work, dedication and experience, and Edwards says these will continue to be the traits that carry the dealership into its next century of excellence. 

The story of Edwards Chevrolet begins in 1912, when Edwards’ grandfather started as a Ford salesman. Back then, Ford operated on a distributorship model rather than the dealership model common today, and in 1914 Edwards’ grandfather was able to open a small Ford distributorship in Gadsden, Ala. 

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Arlington Auto Group is surrounded by five other competing Toyota dealerships within 10 or fewer miles in every direction. Not surprisingly, President Gary Vicari describes this as an “intensely competitive” environment. The Arlington Auto Group is a family business that has been around since 1983, and he and the rest of the Vicari family are united to keep the business “in the family.” This is why Arlington Auto Group is dedicated to competing by offering visitors and customers reasons to do business with its companies, in addition to competitive market pricing.

“For us to compete on something other than just price, we have to offer a better overall experience to the customer,” Vicari says. “We don’t want price to be the first or only reason someone buys a car from us. We offer an experience and atmosphere that is better than our competitors.”

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Auto dealerships can, at times, be stubbornly low-tech. They are, after all, in the business of selling a high-ticket product, and that involves establishing rapport, cultivating trust and building relationships — which are traditionally done through in-person interaction. They want to get customers in the door, get to know them and show them how their car needs can be met.

Smart dealers, though, know that technology doesn’t alienate them from their customers. Technology can help them accomplish their goals — if used to the fullest extent and not treated like a nuisance or an afterthought.

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