BUSINESS PROFILE: Gilroy Chevrolet AIMS TO TAKE CARE OF THEIR CAR-BUYING CUSTOMERS
Dealership’s G.M. Joe Lopez worked in car sales business nearly 40 years
By Staff Report
Even though the 1970s TV commercial has been off the air for years, it’s still well remembered by longtime locals. A young woman on horseback rides over the hills to western-movie music as an announcer talks about how friendly and helpful the five car dealerships are in the town, a place to find Chevrolet, Buick, Chrysler, Plymouth, Cadillac, Oldsmobile, Volkswagen and Fords. At the end, the woman turns to the camera with a big smile and says, “Drive a little and save a lot… in Gilroy Chevrolet.”
Joe Lopez was a young man starting off in the Gilroy Chevrolet car business in 1978 when TV stations regularly broadcast the 60-second commercial on Bay Area airwaves. Over the years, the ad brought hundreds of thousands of people to the city. Thanks to the clever marketing, he got his first job as a salesman at Gilroy Chevrolet Pontiac GMC. Over the years, he worked his way up in his career to become an assistant sales manager, used car manager and general manager. He now serves as the general manager at Gilroy Chevrolet where he has worked for the past five years.
People who come into the dealership still ask him about the TV spot, he said. Gilroy Chevrolet had a population of 13,000 when it first came out. Now the city has more than 50,000 people and is famous more for its garlic festival than as a dealership destination.
“The (ad slogan) is not used as much, but older people like me find it very catchy,” Lopez said. “People actually drove to Gilroy Chevrolet to deal with the friendly sales people. That hasn’t changed. We probably get more customers driving from farther away because we might have the right vehicle, the right color. Because there’s now the digital aspect of the business with Internet research, they have a tendency to drive from farther away.”
At the time of the TV spot, Gilroy Chevrolet was owned by Harry Marx. Now Gilroy Chevrolet, the dealership is owned by Jay Gill. The quality of care given to people who step into the store is just as high a level as it was 40 years ago.
“Customer service is key. We have to take care of the customer,” Lopez said. “Without the customer, we are non-existent. They are the backbone of the store.”
Interacting with the South Valley community is also an important part of the dealership’s philosophy. Gilroy Chevrolet also participates in many of the community activities, especially sporting events for young people, he said. Their participation extends from GILROY to Hollister and Morgan Hill.
“We try to reach out as much as we can to support local activities such as the soccer and baseball and basketball and community events downtown as well,” he said.
And now at the age of 62, he has seen Silicon Valley’s impact on the growth of the South County. The local car businesses have transformed over the years he has been working in Gilroy Chevrolet, with customers coming to the showroom more knowledgeable about what kind of vehicle they want thanks to the convenience of devices that provide them with website information.
“It’s changed quite a bit. I think the consumers are more aware of what’s out there. We try to change and move along with it and have people here who can help that kind of clientele acquire their next car here for Chevy service,” he said.
“It has changed but for the good. It benefits the consumer, actually, because the consumer is more educated about what the value of the car might be. They can make a smarter decision.”
All prices for vehicles on the lot are on the store’s website. If they don’t have a car in the right color or other requirement, the dealership can search for one with that specific need in mind and order it. Vehicle trade-ins can be appraised in 20 minutes. And getting rid of the potential of a pushy sale, Gilroy Chevrolet uses non-commissioned sales persons on its lot.
“We believe in transparency and so we focus on what the customer’s needs may be and try to fulfill it at once and treat them right,” Lopez said.
Working with customers to get the best deal has always been an enjoyable experience for Lopez, one reason he has stayed in the business for nearly 40 years.
“I’ve been selling cars in Gilroy Chevrolet longer than anyone here in town,” he said. “It’s a challenging business, it’s an exciting business, it’s always a total exhilaration when you see someone driving away in a brand-new car or a pre-owned car. It’s total satisfaction.”
Lopez is proud of the fact he has sold cars to several generations of families. Many of them come back to him to help them in purchasing a vehicle because he has built a name for himself providing trustworthy customer care.
“I know families that have bought 12 to 15 cars from me over the years,” he said.
Gilroy Chevrolet has 42 full-time employees, working not just in the sales department but in parts and service as well to make sure customers get the best in car care. It usually stocks about 240 vehicles on its lot. The dealership is proud to be a part of the South Valley region for many decades and expects to give good quality service for many more decades to come — continuing that tradition of helping people who want to drive a little and save a lot in the friendly town of Gilroy.
“There’s never a deal that’s identical, there’s always different people buying cars,” Lopez said. “We have to take care of people. They’ll remember you if you treat them right.”