Dealership Newsmaker Q&A: Robert Engel

Jan. 1, 2020
Robert Engel is a second-generation dealership owner in Tenafly, N.J.

Robert Engel is a second-generation dealership owner in Tenafly, N.J. In 2009, Chrysler pulled Engel's two franchises as part of its dealership consolidation efforts, and the company was forced to close down and lay off the entire staff. This spring, Engel re-opened his Tenafly location as a Kia dealership.

When you found out you lost the Chrysler franchises, did you know you wanted to re-open with a different OEM, or were there other options available?

We didn't have any options on the table at the time, and we were very concerned about how we were going to keep the doors open. For a while we closed our doors because we didn't have the Kia franchise, and then we were able to get it. But we were closed for about nine months.

Why did you make the decision to go with Kia?

We made the decision to go with Kia because it's a very good franchise. I spoke with a lot of other Kia dealers, did a lot of research on my own. I thought the models that they offer, including incoming models, were very good. I went to their plant in Georgia, and I was very impressed with it. I spoke with Kia executives, and I was very impressed with them. I liked how they treated their dealers. I spoke with at least a dozen different dealers, and without exception all of the dealers spoke extremely highly of the people at Kia.

How long did it take to get ramped up?

We only opened five weeks ago, so it took awhile.

Have you seen any significant differences between operating a Chrysler franchise versus a Kia franchise?

The most immediate thing I noticed was they had better people on the corporate side. There's no question in my mind that they care more about the needs of the dealer, and they are more in tune with the product as well. The model line up is better thought out. I get the general sense that the company is very well run. I haven't been a dealer long enough to determine if there are any other differences yet.

Are there any differences between working with Chrysler and Kia on the service and parts side of the business?

There's a learning curve with their systems. When we became a Kia dealer, we also chose to switch DMS systems, so there's a learning curve for that. We went from Reynolds to Auto/Mate. But there's definitely a learning curve with Kia's own system versus Chrysler.

It's a little early to say how things will change on the service side, but my service advisor was just enthusiastically showing me how Kia has a part of their Web site for the dealer where you can key in any tire, for instance, and it will give you cost, list price, and you can order it right there on the spot.

They're keyed into helping the dealer with the aftermarket; there was more work involved in getting pricing with Chrysler. It was not as automated for tires, for instance, like Kia is. That one simple aspect can make a lot of difference.

Has your service operation changed in terms of staff?

Obviously, since we reopened, I was not able to hire back everyone we had, unfortunately, and we had some very good people. We have three techs right now, and I hope to get back to six or seven. The work isn't there yet; we've just started out. I'm trying to attract as many of our Jeep, Chrysler and Dodge customers back as I can.

Chrysler had a good training program, and Kia seems to have a very good training program as well. Both involved courses that are online or live, and they stress training. All of the service and parts people are in the process of taking those courses.

What have you been doing to drum up new service business?

I'm a big believer in staying in touch with the customer. In that regard, we have our customers on a mailing schedule. We send them service reminders with coupons. It helps a lot. We're going to get a coupon card, which will be a preprogrammed card, and when we get that up and running we'll be providing those to customer at delivery. So that should be something that is very good, too.

Sponsored Recommendations

Access Carside OEM Repair Data with MOTOR TruSpeed

Now available on all Autel MaxiSYS Ultra Series tools, MOTOR TruSpeed Repair delivers expanded OEM service and repair data within days of being published by

ADAS Case Study: From 10 Calibrations a Month to Over 10 A Day

Originally published by Vehicle Service Pros, March 26, 2024

Ask The Expert: The Basics & Benefits of Bringing ADAS Calibrations In-house

Originally published by Vehicle Service Pros, March 26, 2024

Simplifying the ADAS Opportunity

Originally published by Body Shop Business, February 12, 2024

Voice Your Opinion!

To join the conversation, and become an exclusive member of Vehicle Service Pros, create an account today!