Leading the Hampton Roads Area with a New Strategy
Located in Hampton, Virginia, Hampton Chevrolet is one of 12 stores in the First Team Auto Group. On paper, the dealership might have a corporate structure, but once you go beyond the gorgeous showroom and 11 acres it sits on, you immediately feel the family-owned mentality that puts a customer automatically at ease.
Since 1959, co-owner Lewis Wood along with his nephew Ashton Lewis, Jr. and Ashton’s father, Ashton Lewis, Sr. have owned the group and are active in its overall management. The owners set the bar high, but provide guidance and leadership to the rest of the team. They have many long-term employees who take pride in the work they do and the service they provide for their customers, bringing sense of enthusiasm and teamwork to the dealership every day. This has proven to be a winning combination in making this dealership a success through the years.
In 2004, Dustin Edmonds walked into Hampton Chevrolet at the age of 18 to buy a car, and the management immediately offered him a job. “It wasn’t in my life plan at the time,” Edmonds said, “but after a couple of months I took them up on the offer and gave it a shot. Almost 13 years later, here I am.” Edmonds started as a sales consultant and worked his way up to his present position as general manager. “My job is to bring excitement to the dealership and to make people want to come to work,” Edmonds said. “We spend a lot of hours in this business, and you’ve got to be able to project how much you truly love coming to work and the people you serve.”
KNOWING THE AREA
Competition in the Hampton Roads area — which includes Southeastern Virginia and Northeastern North Carolina — is stiff. There are eight Chevrolet dealerships that can be visited in one afternoon by a customer. Although the dealerships are located on a peninsula in a less-frequented part of town, they are close to a shipyard and military bases, a fact that works to their advantage.
Being in such a competitive market, Edmonds and his team knew they needed to implement a strategy that would accelerate them above their rivals. “We set a goal to become the No. 1 volume Chevy dealer on the Hampton Roads Peninsula,” Edmonds said, “and, in 2016, for the first time in as far back as we can look, we accomplished that. We plan to branch out from here and take on the rest of the Chevy dealers in the Hampton area.”
GETTING THE DEALERSHIP READY FOR GROWTH
Edmonds started planting the seeds of success when he became GM in 2015 to promote the dealership’s goals for growth. “We had a great foundation already in place, but we needed to have the right people in the right seats,” Edmonds explained. After assuming the role of GM, he began to put a management team in place with a focus on developing their salespeople. “As leaders and coaches, we need to make sure that we are helping our people grow every day,” he said. “We have a great staff, and we have great support from our corporate side. So, in 2016, everything and everybody was in place. We had our goals written out and were ready to work towards them. From there, it became about trusting the process.”
The management of the First Team Auto Group believes that having clearly defined goals is crucial to achieving success. Third-generation Owner and Chief Operating Officer Ashton Lewis Jr. is also a former NASCAR driver, and the group has adopted a motto from him called “Race to Success.” “The motto is, ‘Every day is a lap. Every month is a race. At the end of our 12 races, did we do enough to win the championship?’” Edmonds said. “That focuses us on following the process and being consistent with our message. Everyone bought into that.”
SELLING TO THE PEOPLE ALREADY AT THE LOT
Once the team was in place, the next step was to get existing customers to frequent the dealership even more. With approximately 1,700 repair orders a month, the dealership’s service department sees a lot of volume, so leveraging that customer base became a priority. “With the help of our marketing agency, Team Velocity, we developed a Vehicle Upgrade Program,” Edmonds said. “Team Velocity engineered the program, helped us put it into place and continues to provide ongoing training for us to take full advantage of the program. We have specialized representatives from Team Velocity specifically for the program. They really back it and are invested in it — us being successful means that they’re successful.”
“It’s inspiring to work with a motivated partner such as Hampton Chevrolet who is determined to achieve success,” said Justin Byrd, president of Team Velocity Marketing. “At Team Velocity we have a commitment to our clients to pursue excellence. Only with a strong partner can we attain the success we seek.”
This program gives customers an opportunity to upgrade their vehicle at little or no additional cost. The program works when a customer comes in for service and, once there, a Hampton Chevrolet upgrade specialist runs the numbers on their current vehicle versus a new vehicle. More often than not, it will make financial sense for a customer to upgrade. In fact, in 2016 Hampton Chevrolet sold 10 to 15 additional vehicles per month with this program, with the added benefit of building a SUCCESS STORY HAMPTON CHEVROLET quality used car inventory for the dealership. And late model same brand trade-ins are up 5 percent which gives the dealership great vehicles for its pre-owned sales.
The goal for 2017 is to refine the program and double that number. Edmonds believes it can be done by working smarter with the existing tools and connections they have with their loyal customers. “That’s something we can do without any advertising,” he said. “It’s working smarter with the funds we have available and taking advantage of the incredible database we have here.”
MAKING THE CONNECTION
Edmonds said that he wants his dealership to continue the growth path it’s on, sticking with the process, and pushing forward with and expanding the proven techniques. “We’re excited to see where 2017 and the future goes,” Edmonds said. “We’re in a really good position, especially with the people we have here. We’ll make some tweaks here and there, and we’re eager to see what’s to come.”