Varsity Lincoln of Novi Does More than Sell Cars
The car dealership takes its family-owned business values and shares them with the community, of which it has been a part since 1994.
Varsity Lincoln has been a family-owned business in Novi since 1994 and, according to Michael Stanford, works to maintain it's community connections.
Varsity Lincoln is hosting a fundraiser Monday at the Novi Public Library called Drive Smart for the Cause. Participants at the event who are 18 years old or older with a valid drivers license can test drive some of the dealership's vehicles. Lincoln will donate $20 per test drive to benefit the Friends of the Novi Public Library.
"We send out emails about what we're doing on the community," said Jennifer McCloskey, business development and leasing manager.
The dealership also gave away a two-year lease to Friendship Circle, a non-profit that provides support and friendship to children with special needs.
McCloskey said it's important to stay a part of the community.
"We want them to think of us as their car dealer," she said.
Stanford said a business should not only take from the community. He said giving back and staying involved is a sign of a good business.
How it all started
Brothers Lou and Michael Stanford opened the car dealership, which is a sister store to Varsity Ford in Ann Arbor that is managed by their brother Hank.
Michael, or Mike, Stanford said he worked at the Ann Arbor dealership for 13 years before managing this one.
"When we first came out here," he said, "there was nothing around."
He said it was like moving out to the frontier west, because there was one McDonald's and a gas station and everything else was vacant fields.
Things are different now, Stanford said, and the dealership is located off the expressway in the center of many prosperous communities.
"This was the first new Lincoln-Mercury dealership in this market probably in 20 years," he said.
The company wanted to use it as an experimental model for the rest of the country, he said.
"This will be our sixteenth year in a row as the number one Lincoln dealer in the world," he said.
McCloskey joined Varsity Lincoln in 1995 as a receptionist. She said she worked in several areas before getting to where she is today like the service and rental departments.
She said one way the dealership has grown is in their relations with customers.
"We do a lot of unsold follow-up," McCloskey said.
She said they call people who visited the showroom to find out about their experience and to see what assistance they need.
The dealership is also growing physically - the entire showroom is getting renovated. The customer lounge is transforming into a customer business center that will include WiFi and large screen televisions to keep customers busy while they wait, she said.
"It's a whole new look, really," she said. "Everything from new floor tile to new ceiling tile."
McCloskey said they plan to be finished the first week of December and will have a re-opening in January.
Another area of growth is the service department, she said. The dealership has a quick lane service, which allows the dealership to service all makes and models including those not of the dealership brand.
"Quick lane generates new business for us," she said.
A hot topic around the dealership is the 2013 Lincoln MKZ, which is completely redesigned and includes a panoramic roof as one of its unique features.
"It's been a long time since domestic manufacturers have had that kind of buzz about our cars," McCloskey said.
What's Changed Over the Years
McCloskey said the business development center, where she works now, was added seven years ago and it is a progressive way to do business because it encourages follow-up with customers.
"In order to grow, you have to retain your current business," she said.
Another area that has seen a lot of change is the technology within the cars. Most vehicles now include built-in navigation systems, sensors that detect blind spots and rear view cameras.
"It's almost unimaginable the changes they come out with," she said.
She said the dealership embraces these changes despite how new they are to them. She said all of the sales people are getting iPads to assist them in showing new features to customers.