Dealer Ops

Schumacher Mercedes-Benz Thinks Big

Werner Schumacher was born in 1942 in Engelskirchem, Germany. Schumacher was destined to be in the car business from a young age. His father owned a Mercedes-Benz dealership in the post WWII era. After moving to the United States when he was 20 years old, Schumacher got his first job at a Volkswagen dealership in Manhattan. He later landed a job at a Mercedes-Benz dealership in New Jersey and the rest is automotive history. A man of vision and passion, Werner Schumacher continues the tradition today through his two sons Michael and Chris. He and his heirs have the same passion and commitment to excellence as Werner did over 40 years ago when he entered the business. Werner Schumacher European Ltd. is now widely recognized as one of the top Mercedes-Benz dealerships in the country.

The commitment to excellence extends far beyond the technical side of the automotive industry. The Schumachers have created a facility that is entirely customer focused and user friendly. “We really tried to focus on providing an environment where customers would feel at home”, said Kevin Steele, general manager of Schumacher Mercedes-Benz. “It was very important to us that we create a resort atmosphere.”

Founded in 1984 in Scottsdale, Arizona Schumacher European Ltd. is an exclusive single point Mercedes-Benz dealership. Throughout the 80s and 90s Schumacher saw a tremendous amount of growth in the car market. Five years ago Mercedes-Benz Corporation started to look to Schumacher European, Ltd as an opportunity to grow its business. Two years later a project was set in motion to basically triple the square footage of the existing location and turn Schumacher European into the current 94,700 sq ft Mercedes-Benz superstore it is today!

Schumacher Mercedes-Benz took a one-of-a-kind proactive approach at designing the dealership with the customer in mind. “We got our entire team together in seeking out what we were looking for,” says Steele. One of the first systems Schumacher implemented to serve the customer is use of an intricate team concept in the Service Department. The concept involves having multiple technicians working on a car at the same time therefore resulting in cars flowing through the service department more quickly. With 60 service and detail bays available service volume should never be a problem for this dealership.

Although customers ultimately spend less time in the service department, Steele and his team still wanted to value the customer’s time and create an ambiance of comfort and functionality. Schumacher decided on creating a facility that offered different lounge environments to cater to individual needs of the customer. The lounges include an Internet Hot Spot, two television lounges, Cafe Mercedes and a library lounge. In addition the facility also provides conference rooms for privacy to business patrons. Each lounge accommodates a particular type of customer need.

Customers can enjoy a freshly brewed Starbucks coffee while watching their morning TV shows or they can immerse themselves in the start of their business day in individual private conference areas. Cafe Mercedes includes specialized Mercedes-Benz merchandise, as well as, boutique fashions items such as shoes and purses for personalized shopping.

The library offers a relaxing place where customers can unwind from a hectic day and lose themselves in a good book while waiting for their automobile to be serviced. Whatever the customer needs to be comfortable and stress free, while visiting Schumacher Mercedes-Benz, Steele and his team insure that it happens for each and every customer that visits the dealership.

The Schumacher facility is completely designed to meet the customers’ needs. In addition to all the luxuries for the customer, Schumacher still had space for a state-of-the-art 20 car showroom and a four vehicle delivery bay that is adjacent to the finance offices. The delivery bay design was all about the customer. Allowing the customer to take delivery of their vehicle under showroom style lighting in air conditioned comfort instead of the 100+ degree heat of the Arizona desert.

What does Customer Service mean to Schumacher Mercedes-Benz? “Customer Service is the foundation of our business,” says Steele. “Our intent and our goal are not to sell one vehicle, but to sell a customer multiple vehicles throughout time to fulfill all of their buying needs.” Schumacher Mercedes-Benz constantly looks at ways to improve the business. They have their goals set on being world famous for their product and their customer interaction. “We want to be the model for other dealerships,” said Steele.

Designing with the customer in mind takes forward thinking and strategic planning. In order to devise this super center Steele visited 12 different brand new dealerships throughout the United States to get a feeling of what the hottest trends were. Steele tried to understand what concepts are working and how he could improve on existing ideas. He wanted to combine the best of the best under one roof - Schumacher Mercedes-Benz! Steele also visited several resort locations to help develop a mood of comfort and relaxation to the dealership atmosphere.

The super center concept was designed to reach each customer at every point in the buying spectrum. “We tried to create an environment for the traditional 65 year old Mercedes S-Class owner and the hip 25-35 year old that wants to come in and plug in their laptop,” says Steele.

Even the boutique, which is placed directly in the center of the dealership facility, offers a little something for everyone to buy. “We now have a world-class boutique,” says Steele. The key to the success of this super center is to design every inch with focus on the customers’ wants and needs. From what type of computers to have to the type of seats in the lounge area (chairs or stools), each room included different buying decisions that had to be made customer-friendly.

So what are the challenges of having such a massive facility with everything under one roof? “Other than just the size,” says Steele “unlike many other businesses, each department, lounge, or office is different to accommodate the customer in a specialized way.” “It’s not like we were building 40 of the same hotel rooms each mini-environment is unique in its own way.”

Schumacher Mercedes-Benz had the challenge of making at least 15 decisions for approximately 264 rooms in the facility. Throughout the facility, Steele and his team had to decide everything from lighting to paint to what kind of stools to place at the computer stations. The key word here is DECISIONS, DECISIONS, DECISIONS! Too many to count but they needed to made in order to make this gigantic supercenter a success.

For the past five years, Schumacher European, Ltd has ranked number one in Ranking Arizona: The best of Arizona Business. The dealership was also recognized for its achievement in sales and service with the “Best of the Best” award, a nationally recognized award give by Mercedes-Benz. In addition, Schumacher Mercedes-Benz was recently recognized by Time Magazine with the Quality Dealer Award, which honors new car dealers from across the nation who display exceptional performance and distinguished community service.

Today Schumacher is home to 175 employees including service and office staff. The future for Schumacher Mercedes-Benz looks just as big as the super center itself. Vehicle sales are up 30 percent from last year and parts/services are up 23 percent indicating a solid trend in the right direction. Completing the super center was a long term work in progress that was finally completed on March 12, 2005 when the move was complete and another chapter was added to the Schumacher history book. “Our next mission is to be #1 in Customer Satisfaction,” says Steele.

Vol 2, Issue 9


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