Every industry has pioneers. From Henry Ford to the Wright Brothers, each historical phase of America’s manufacturing history is full of inventors, capitalists, and manufacturers. The real unsung heroes in America’s industrial growth, however, have been the sales and service professionals who have put the country’s industrial ingenuity on the street and served the customers.
America’s great pioneers of sales and service are essential ingredients in the success of American automotive manufacturing. Without the faithful backing of men and women in sales and service, many of the success stories about America’s automobile industry would have been disappointments instead. Always there... always trying to keep the customer satisfied… has been the automobile dealer.
The limousine industry as we know it today is relatively new, and therefore has not developed a network of motorcoach showrooms and service centers across the country as the Big Three auto manufacturers of Detroit have done. There are two limousine dealerships which specialize in sales and service, however. They are Corporate Coachworks’ dealers Lakeview Custom Coach in Oaklyn, NJ, and Alcon Corporation in Warwick, RI.
Like early conventional automobile dealerships, Lakeview and Alcon are pioneering new dealership techniques such as complete showroom sales and service, including body work and complete chassis service, in the limousine industry. The two dealerships are very different, but Corporate Coachworks is their common denominator.
Pete Corelli is the owner of Lakeview Custom Coach. He is an experienced limousine operator with a service background including everything from mechanics to body and trim work. Al Confreda, owner of Alcon Corporation, is an experienced auto service professional with an extensive sales background including managing a service center for an auto accessories and parts business.
Both Corelli and Confreda have taken their backgrounds and concentrated on sales and marketing techniques developed by Corporate Coachworks. The result is that Lakeview and Alcon have become two of the industry’s leaders in full service motorcoach dealerships.
Corporate Coachworks gives Corelli and Confreda high praise for their individual dealership development. Although Corporate has worked with each to assist in dealer and sales development, a Corporate Coachworks manager said, “Pete and Al have built their businesses on sound sales and service of our product by giving their customers a real sense of security when they buy a motorcoach… all Corporate Coachworks can do is give the dealerships the backup they need.”
Both Corelli and Confreda have contended that much of their success is due to offering their customers quality products. But arriving at the forefront of the limousine sales and service business is not achieved merely by offering a quality product. It is also because of their deduction to a strict philosophy of selling and providing satisfaction to the person who buys a limousine. Corelli and Confreda understand their customers’ needs and want to meet the customers’ demands. They are successful because they are individuals who really care about how they treat their customers. They are dealers who believe in the meaning of the word “integrity.”
Pete Corelli’s background is a major factor in his success with Lakeview Custom Coach. After 23 years of working in many phases of auto repair and body/trim work, Corelli began operating a fleet of limousines in Atlantic City, NJ. He built his fleet into a 15-car operation. Corelli is sales-motivated and, in spite of his mechanical background, his decision to sell and service limousines was no surprise to Doug Donalson, Corporate Coachworks’ chief engineer. Corelli says Donalson was instrumental in his decision to become a Corporate Coachworks dealer.
When the idea of opening a full service dealership crossed Corelli’s mind, the main attraction was the “challenge to do something different,” he says. Full service limousine dealerships are not your average everyday business ventures, and the challenge and uniqueness fit Corelli’s agenda.
Since its establishment, Lakeview Custom Coach has grown not only to a full service dealership but also a complete body and trim shop for all makes and models of limousines.
Corelli attributes his growth to the fact that limousine operators need someone they can count on to repair their vehicles.
“Downtime is the biggest enemy of the operator,” says Corelli. “I want to be there to meet their needs and keep them on the road.”
Confreda also credits his success to his background. He began his auto repair career in 1969. After working his way up to service manager, he began an auto accessory business with his father, Gene. As the business grew, so did Confreda’s ambitions to offer more to his clients. His interest in the limousine industry grew as well.
Confreda founded Alcon Corporation with one major personal goal. He wanted to satisfy customers with the best service, not just concentrate on the bottom line. Confreda believes in profit but, because of his service manager experience, he knows that customer satisfaction is most important if you expect the customer ever to buy again. His motto is “profits depend on happy customers.”
Alcon has proved Confreda’s belief that “a good product like Corporate Coachworks’ and personal service make a good car deal every time.” Since he started Alcon in 1985, it has grown from a small operation to full-service showroom just off the interstate. He says he has invested his dollars in ensuring that his customers are satisfied.
Success has not come easy for either Corelli or Confreda. With large investments in car inventories and service labor and parts, the risks of entrepreneurship are ever-present. However, each of the two says his success is due to his background and his understanding and sincere appreciation of customer needs. Both Corelli and Confreda also give much credit to their support staffs and key individuals in their organizations.
Corelli and Confreda are purists when it comes to customer satisfaction. They believe that each car owner is unique and deserves special attention. Each man, having a service background, offers his customers an after-sale advantage. That advantage is that Corelli and Confreda tend to emphasize customer satisfaction in service rather than promises made just to close the sale. Both companies’ philosophy is that the company’s and manufacturer’s image and credibility after the sale are more important than pre-sale hype.
Both dealers say the backing they get from Corporate Coachworks is vital. “Sales and marketing and the support of key individuals from Corporate Coachworks is the very key to my success,” Confreda declares.
“Without service and warranty support from Corporate and support on technical matters, my job would be real tough,” Corelli adds,
Both dealers believe that having a manufacturer’s support benefits the customers as well as the dealer.
Corelli believes that his “challenge to do something different and worthwhile” has enabled him to contribute to the growth of the limousine industry in the Northeast. Serving as the president of his local limousine association for two years has given him a better and closer understanding of the problems facing operators. He believes that although a good dealership can’t solve all the problems operators have, it can help, and that is what he is trying to do.
Confreda has become involved in the New England Limousine Association and is interested in matters of insurance and product safety, both of which affect livery operators. Confreda maintains that when a customer goes to Alcon, or to Lakeview for that matter, he is getting much more than a quality product, he is “getting our true interest and dedication to the industry…to see it grow and to see the operators do better.”
“Excellence and prestige is assured when you conduct business with a Corporate Coachworks dealer” is the slogan used in Corporate’s dealer advertisement. The slogan is true because of men like Pete Corelli and Al Confreda. Their commitment to excellence goes beyond their quality showrooms. It is part of every phase of their dealerships. In the service and maintenance operations of each dealership, excellence is the rule, not the exception.
Understanding the needs of the customer is a key ingredient in the success of both Lakeview and Alcon. Knowledge of limousine products is one of the most necessary skills a successful dealer can have. Unfortunately, many dealers are only familiar with what they sell. Many times customers are not educated on specifics concerning basic construction and safety measures.
Corelli and Confreda take pride in the product knowledge which their sales personnel have attained. Customers are at an advantage when they enter either of the two showrooms. Not only can a customer find out about the products offered, he can also become educated by comparing technical information on other manufacturers’ products. Corelli and Confreda want to help customers learn more about all limousines and thus become better buyers.
“Most people who sell limousines just want to get them sold, and they will talk up their product and tear down all other products…I don’t do it that way,” says Confreda. “We just show them the technical data and facts…the facts speak for themselves. Once a buyer is educated…he’ll make the best decision for his livery service and his pocketbook. Most people want quality that is service-dependable. They know what they buy from us is quality and we stand behind it with service.”
It has been said that the master craftsmen in the limousine industry are those who bend steel, polish wood, design electrical systems and improve suspension but nothing compares to the men and women of Lakeview and Alcon who make sure that the customer gets the best in every area. The unsung master craftsmen of the industry are the sales and service individuals who go the extra mile to make the industry better.
The dealerships of Lakeview and Alcon are new visions for providing customers the best possible product along with the necessary service. This is not a new idea. Everyone from Henry Ford to Lee lacocca has stressed dealer networks in order to serve the public. Corporate Coachworks, however, is leading the limousine industry in this regard.
Dealerships with a dealership look and function is the direction Corporate Coachworks has taken. Alcon and Lakeview are the pioneers and their business is appreciated by the public. The real benefit is to the customer.