A major player in the success of Folsom Lake Dodge is wholesale parts manager Al Bielert. His team, consisting of four other members, has over 120 years of
combined experience with Dodge. "Al's vision and dreams are big like mine," commented Hidalgo. "He runs the show."
Several innovative procedures set the Folsom Lake Dodge parts department apart from the crowd. First of all, it is no longer located at the dealership. Having outgrown its space, the parts department opened a 12,000 sq. ft. warehouse about five miles away from the store in Rancho Cordova in October 2005. A huge loading dock facilitates stocking, cataloging and delivery of parts.
Bielert explained that he has no restrictions on the type and amount of parts stocked in the warehouse. It is so important to have the right parts available at all times. To this end, Bielert can purchase products and parts inexpensively off-season, such as freon in winter, and have a place to store them until needed. He searches the internet for hard to find parts and has a stash of hoods and fenders. There is no cap on the inventory.
The parts team doesn't do anything halfway. Seven trucks deliver parts within 100 miles in all directions - from Oakland, Chico, Modesto, and Hayward to Reno and Lake Tahoe. There is still a small satellite parts department that stocks for the retail and repair shop right at the dealership.
Working side-by-side with his four counter-men, Bielert mans the phones. "Al is like a mother hen to all his accounts. He gives everyone the personal touch," praised Hidalgo.
Number 1 in only five years
How can one explain the achievement of going from brand new to number one in Northern California in five short years? Bielert explained "that the philosophy which Hidalgo has injected into the business has rolled over into the parts department. The staff shares his goal of being number one. The parts team strives to be number one in California alongside the sales department."
The parts department has grown to what it is today largely due to the four men who work alongside Bielert - Alan Dietz (33 years with Dodge), Jack Freeman (24 years), Kerry Granby (22 years) and T-bone Mike (20 years). Customers buy from these experienced individuals, and not some faceless corporation.
Their following has brought these customers to the Folsom Lake Dodge parts department. It is the people who make the difference in the wholesale part of the business. Body shops don't buy from the company, but from the individuals who service their accounts. Anyone who picks up the phone is ready to help the customer. Every single body shop in the area is contacted once a week to keep the lines of communication open.
Hidalgo pointed out that the Chrysler corporation has a Parts Specifying hot line for dealers to use when
they have a problem, but Bielert's team rarely needs it. "We have probably run into almost every contingency. Other dealerships come to us for help," he said.
One satisfied customer is Vince Bertolucci, owner, Bertolucci's Body and Fender Shop. "The team at Folsom Lake Dodge offers us prompt service - and they go out of their way to please their customers. They take care of any problems that may arise and give the best deal in town. We have been long time customers, with the Dodge dealership being our primary source of Chrysler parts. I want to thank them for the excellent service they give us day in and day out."
One of top twenty in the country
Folsom Lake Dodge's success has brought them recognition from Chrysler as one of the top twenty dealers in the country. This acknowledgment comes with the ability to price match an entire estimate - allowing the body shop to use all OE parts at reduced prices.
The dealership keeps its name in front of consumers with its community activities. It sponsors Mopar in the Park, golf outings, and platinum sponsorship of a canine trail to benefit the police department. Rather than having kids sell candy, Hidalgo offers packages of oil changes that kids can sell to raise funds for schools and other organizations. "It is actually a meaningful purchase - a lot healthier than candy and people get to know us this positive way," he explained.
Furthermore, the dealership supports charities such as the Make-A-Wish Foundation, juvenile diabetes, and cardiac research among others. And they sponsor a Pop Warner football team for five-year-old boys and girls.
Hidalgo is proud of the business and it shows. The surroundings are bright and clean, providing an excellent environment to work in. "This really is a people business," he continued. "Pretend you are in Disneyland. People believe what they see.
"Any business is relationship driven, especially when you are selling to somebody. These customers could buy anywhere at similar prices. We pride ourselves on having the right relationships. The image we present makes customers see the parts they receive as quality items. Our drivers are in uniform. The trucks are washed daily. This is not a rag-tag team.
"Moreover, we keep our name out there with a number of promotional items, some provided by the manufacturers. And, of course, there is no substitute for personal attention and that is what Al and his team provide."