On today’s edition of Inside Automotive, we are pleased to welcome back Alex Casebeer, General Manager/Partner of Capitol Auto Group in Salem, Oregon. Capitol Auto currently has one collision center and three dealerships representing the Cadillac, Chevrolet, Subaru, and Toyota brands.
Last year, Capitol Auto opened its new 75,000 square foot Subaru store after starting the project right before the COVID-19 pandemic. Luckily, the construction went smoothly, and the store received additional inventory. It was a great year, Casebeer says. Year-over-year, the store increased in volume. Now, Capitol Auto has one of the top Subaru stores in the state of Oregon.
Casebeer says it has been a struggle to acquire used inventory. Like many other dealers, Capitol Auto is looking for used cars everywhere, especially street purchases. The last time we spoke to Casebeer, early in the pandemic, he discussed buying vehicles from Hertz and Enterprise to bolster his used car inventory. Today, the tables have turned, and rental car companies are desperate for cars too.
On the new car side, sky-high prices discourage some customers from buying cars. However, Casebeer explains that Capitol Auto decided not to sell new vehicles over MSRP. In fact, Capitol Auto is picking up business from all over Oregon and even neighboring states because of its commitment to stay at MSRP.
“We’re not afraid. Everybody is getting greedy, and we don’t really like that. I think it’s going to pay off for us in the long run. Customers will remember what’s going on right now,” says Casebeer.
Casebeer says that shop loading and the right work mix are very important for fixed operations. The group is still operating on a ‘no appointment necessary’ model for oil changes. They are also internally training as many auto technicians as possible so they can be moved to the main shop eventually. He admits that there can sometimes be a wait in the service lane, but they use loaner cars and shuttles to help customers go where they need to.
“If anything, the pandemic has taught us to be flexible, creative, and think outside of the box because customer behavior is changing. So, if someone wants us to come pick up their car for an oil change, we’re probably going to do it,” says Casebeer.
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