“Dealerships were constantly leaving their local communities to set up shop on a major highway,” Sousa said. “It was a national trend” … and logically so.
With the growth of mega malls, strip malls, shopping centers and big box discount stores, traditional downtown shopping districts were beginning to decline and in some cases completely fade away. Throughout the country, suburban communities struggled to keep shoppers from fleeing central business districts to outlying malls, which were perceived to be much more visible and convenient for most shoppers. That concern spread to automobile dealerships, too.
However for Sousa, not all things are what they seem. Although he did make a leap four months ago, it wasn’t from a small, suburban dealer to a major highway multi-brand dealership. It was from his sales executive position with Open Road BMW in Edison to the general manager’s position at BMW of Tenafly. Located at 301 County Road, BMW of Tenafly is “your typical small town dealer,” said Sousa.
“It’s in the middle of town,” he continued. “It’s part of the fabric of the community. That gives our customer base a tremendous sense of comfort and trust. There’s always been a strong market demand for BMW automobiles in this community and in the surrounding areas. And most of those consumers feel at home right here.”
While the small town image certainly suits BMW of Tenafly, in other respects it operates on a larger scale. The dealership has been in business for 26 years, the last 15 of which have been in the ownership of Penske Automotive Group, Inc.
Penske, an international automotive retailer, is the second largest publically-traded automotive retailer in the United States in terms of total revenue. The company currently owns and operates 166 franchises in the US and 169 internationally. Its network consists of 40 different automobile brands.
“We have the best of both worlds,” said Sousa. “Being based downtown, we have a real opportunity to build on our community-oriented image. At the same time, we are part the Penske Automotive Group. Penske has been highly successful because they make sure that all of their dealers comply with an extremely strict set of training, facility and processes requirements. We welcome that process because it helps us maintain such a high level of customer satisfaction.
“That helps our team of employees keep their sights focused on satisfying the customer and that aligns perfectly with small town business principles, and with Penske’s corporate principles. Those principles are major reasons why people keep coming back here to buy a car,” Sousa said.