Meyer Auto Group Is Shifting Gears
Hard Times Leads To Changes
Faced with a shortage of resources brought about by an industry-wide credit crisis over the past two-plus years, the oldest Chevrolet dealer in the state was forced to make some hard decisions in order to stay in the game and prosper.
When taking over as general manger of the Middle Village-based Meyer Chevrolet, located at 61-15 Metropolitan Ave., in 2006, Danny Meyer, 27, never imagined having to veer away from a successful business model of selling new Chevy cars and trucks that allowed the dealership to remain a community fixture for over 90 years.
“When I first started here, I worked my way up from sweeping the floors to prepping the cars and I’ve worked in every single department all the way to the top,” said the married father of two, who took over the reins from his mother, Sheila, 57.
What the young businessman didn’t anticipate was the reluctance of GMAC, a financing arm that was once fully owned by General Motors (GM), to approve loan requests on the part of car dealers in 2008, which prevented Meyer’s operation from providing the necessary inventory for his showroom.
“The liquidity in the credit market dried up, GMAC ran out of money. The average dealer was sitting on $5 to 10-million worth of inventory,” he detailed when explaining the process of ordering a vehicle. “They demanded 10 to 20-percent of your outstanding credit in cash. The credit markets collapsed; the banks were going out of business. Where were we going to get our money?”
Meyer made some much-needed changes following GM’s move to officially terminate Meyer Chevrolet as an authorized dealer. He turned his enterprise into a 100-percent service oriented establishment specializing in the repair, parts and maintenance aspects of automobiles.
In addition, the business, now known as the MeyerAuto Group, has also begun operating as a consignment brokerage, which helps people sell their cars for their full value.
The Forest Hills resident also mentioned how he will “go the extra mile” to accommodate customers for their sales and warranty needs, including those on discontinued car brands, such as Pontiac and Saturn.
“Moving forward, we do service parts. Everyone sees us as Chevrolet, but after 91 years, we’re trying to make a separation. We’re trying to build upon the knowledge that we’ve learned,” added Meyer, whose father and former facility general manager, Billy, died in 1998 after a bout with cystic fibrosis.
“To be in business for almost 100 years, you have to be doing something right. You’re not in business for 100 years because you get lucky or the market was good. We’re taking the business model we’ve been working with for 91 years and we’re improving upon it.”
Over the past year, Meyer has diluted his sales staff and replaced them with a team of expert mechanics that service all makes and models from all over the world. The revamped auto group also subcontracts any necessary body work to local collision repair businesses, not national chain shops.
Meyer has recently extended his hours of service from 7:30 to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday and 7:30 to 3:30 on Saturday.
“We’re servicing all of my customers and anybody else who has a vehicle. The problem is it’s difficult because they don’t know we’re open. We terminated on May 11. Chevrolet sent out a letter to every single person we ever sold a car to, saying we’re no longer an authorized Chevrolet dealer,” he recounted.
“The way my customers took it is that we’ve closed our doors. So, I have been having my people make phone calls to customers that haven’t been here in 200, 300 days.”
Every driver that Meyer does business with is promised the utmost one-on-one, dedicated service that many of the surviving retail dealerships can’t offer given their increased flow of customer traffic.
The auto group leader is also a connoisseur of classic cars, who owns a 1966 Chevy Impala. Because of his love for the oldies, Meyer has become a go-to guy of sorts for owners of timeless relics, which require very different care than late model varieties.
Among the more extraordinary vehicles he’s currently trying to push is a 1999 custom low riser formerly owned by deceased WWE wrestler Eddie Guerrero.
The Long Island native gives back to the community by offering his lot to the East Coast Car Association, which hosts charitable car shows where some of Meyer’s classic autos are on display.
Most recently, the Meyer Auto Group has entered into a contractual agreement with the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) to service a fleet of 350 cars.
“We’re really trying to take a look at what it takes to stay where we are and continue being a member of the community for another 100 years doing what we know how to do, which is selling vehicles…and now instead of just selling Chevrolets, we’re selling everything,” he stated from his second-floor Metropolitan Avenue office.
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