Ray Laethem Motor Village has been a part of the Laethem family since Ray Laethem bought the dealership in 1980. Jeff Laethem, who owns the dealership now after purchasing it in 2002, said his father stayed involved until he passed away in 2010 from Parkinson's disease.
The dealership has been at the same location, 17677 Mack Ave. in Grosse Pointe-Detroit, from the beginning but expanded to include property that stretches about half a mile from one end to the other.
"In 2011, I purchased the Chrysler Jeep Dodge Ram franchise next door," Laethem said.
Laethem said the main dealership on Mack Avenue had about 100 to 120 employees back in 1990. The Buick dealership, on Harper and Cadieux, had about 50 employees, and the dealership next door had about 100 to 120 employees, he said.
"Now all of those brands are consolidated into three blocks here under one ownership and 120 people total," he said. "It takes this kind of consolidation to make it work."
Convenience for Customers
Laethem said they help make things convenient for customers with services like free loaner vehicles.
"Listening to the customer is our biggest trade," he said. "The thing we hold dearest to our heart is listening. Not telling them what they want."
He said they have an entire department devoted to customer care called Laethem Listens. The goal, he said, is to ensure they follow through on promises to customers.
"With the amount of transactions we have, thousands of transactions in a month, we screw up. It happens. It's how you handle the screw up that matters in the end," he said.
He said they have also added innovation to the service department, which now matches or beats the speed of other quick service facilities.
Laethem said the dealership is big on community involvement. Ray Laethem Motor Village works with the Grosse Pointe Chamber of Commerce, Motor City Connect, St. John Hospital, Urban Blight Busters, 313DLove and local businesses and professionals who use the dealership as their meeting place.
"We like to be involved in just about anything that is local. A lot of us live around the area, and the area means a lot to me," Laethem said.
Changes in the Car Business
Laethem said that so much has changed about cars and they way they are sold since his father ran the business.
The dealership focuses on innovative advertising, Laethem said.
"We look for new ways to sell vehicles on the internet that match the way people want to buy their cars. It’s a lot harder to sell a car completely online compared to a DVD on amazon," he said.
Laethem said many departments have doubled, like the the collision and internet business.
"There is not an aspect of the business that is not growing at the moment," he said. "The only thing that would be shrinking is the amount of warranty work we do on cars. Because they are built so much better than they have been in the past."
Ray Laethem Motor Village renovated its Chrysler Jeep Dodge Ram dealership at the beginning of 2011. Laethem said they are in the middle of renovating the Buick GMC dealership.
"Top to bottom, everything will be new. By spring of 2013, every aspect of the dealership on Mack Avenue will be brand new and state of the art," he said.