Cars Commerce Honors Dealers Earning Top Consumer Reviews

The awards are based on DealerRater.com scores.

Alysha Webb, Contributor

March 14, 2024

6 Min Read
Awards
Communication, price transparency and positive connections with customers are the main award criteria.Getty Images

Cars Commerce announces the winners of its Dealer of the Year awards that recognize outstanding dealers.

The awards are based on consumer reviews, and the winners share a common trait: a process to collect and act on those consumer reviews to ensure high-quality customer service. That helps build consumer loyalty, say Cars Commerce executives and dealer winners.

“Far too many dealers still consider the customer feedback or the review to be the end of the process when in reality it is the beginning,” Jamie Oldershaw, vice president of reputation strategy at Cars Commerce, tells WardsAuto.

The Dealer of the Year awards are based on more than 1 million customer reviews, positive and negative, submitted to the online marketplace Cars.com in calendar 2023. Winners were selected based on average star ratings, total number of reviews and dealer response rate to those reviews.

Of the more than 50,000 U.S. and Canadian dealers with Cars.com profiles, 987 were selected as regional, national and state winners.

Response rate is a new factor this year. “We want to make sure all dealers engaging in conversations post-experience are acknowledged for that,” Oldershaw says of the new category. “The conversation actually begins with the review.”

But, he adds, “nearly 80% of dealer review winners were already responding before we included it. That was a habit of a highly effective dealer.” 

Customers on Cars Commerce’s DealerRater site evaluate dealerships on a star system, with five stars being the highest. Earning a five-star review involves three key elements, Oldershaw says:

  • Good communication.

  • Price transparency.

  • Forming a customer connection.

The winners have processes that incorporate all three as well as engaged employees who understand the importance of collecting reviews, he says.

“It takes everyone in the dealership working together to get the volume of positive reviews you need,” Oldershaw says.

Phillips Chevrolet in Frankfort, IL, was a National Brand Winner – Chevrolet; a Regional Winner – Midwest; and a State Winner – Illinois.

Managing partner Mike Maheras, who is also general manager, credits its one-person, one-hour buying process with noncommissioned salespeople for its high customer satisfaction. It leans into customer reviews, he says.

One salesperson handles the entire process, including F&I from start to finish, and each of those salespersons has a QR code that a customer can scan when the sale concludes to leave a review, Maheras tells WardsAuto.

“Each salesman has to get a certain amount of reviews each month,” he says.

He also credits the very low turnover among his salespeople to Phillips’ great reviews. All of those salespeople have been with Phillips for at least several years and all managers are promoted from within, Maheras says. That makes for great customer connections.

One salesman stands out, he says. Rami Alamawi has a 5.0 DealerRater employee rating – the highest possible – and has garnered 1,765 reviews in the 14 years he has worked at Phillips Chevrolet.

 “He doesn’t need leads” because people keep coming back to buy from him, Maheras says. “His customers love him.”

Boardwalk Auto Group in Plano, TX, won in multiple categories and years. The group has Lamborghini, Ferrari, Maserati and Volkswagen franchises.

Lamborghini Dallas is a Lamborghini Dealer of the Year Winner for the 13th year in a row, including this year. Boardwalk Ferrari in Plano is a National Brand Winner – Ferrari and a State Winner – Texas this year.

The dealerships’ process starts with 100% of clients on the sales and service side being informed verbally they will receive a request for a review by text or email in four days, Jack Weinzierl, the group’s soon-to-retire vice president of marketing, tells WardsAuto.

An automated process sends the actual request, he says.

Though some dealerships pursue Google reviews, Boardwalk prioritizes DealerRater reviews, Weinzierl says, because it has better quality controls.

The dealerships respond to 100% of reviews. “We don’t have a bot doing that,” Weinzierl says.

Weinzierl has been with Boardwalk for 13 years. For his first 11 years, he responded to between 8,000 and 9,000 reviews.

The group acquired a Volkswagen dealership in Lewisville, TX, about three years ago. It had some “reputational issues,” Weinzierl says. “We used dealer reviews to turn that around.”

Cars Commerce doesn’t see a noticeable difference in reviews for volume brands and luxury or exotic brands, Oldershaw says.

“No matter what sort of vehicle you are selling, it is a local retail transaction at the end of the day,” he says. “It is human nature to want to be taken care of.”

The following are the national winners. For a complete list, click on this link.

About the Author(s)

Alysha Webb

Contributor

Based in Los Angeles, Alysha Webb has written about myriad aspects of the automotive industry for more than than two decades, including automotive retail, manufacturing, suppliers, and electric vehicles. She began her automotive journalism career in China and wrote reports for Wards Intelligence on China's electric vehicle future and China's autonomous vehicle future. 

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