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post #11 of 14 (permalink) Old 04-07-2013, 11:29 AM Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by SkippyThorson View Post
I LOVE Latham. John and the crew over there are really fantastic. My favorite automotive dealership I have ever been to for any reason, ever. Maybe I'll see you there for the next Smarty Party!
How's service over at Latham? I was going to head over there, but went with Warwick, because of the loaner program. And yes, I would make the trip! Start planning!
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post #12 of 14 (permalink) Old 04-08-2013, 08:05 AM
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Originally Posted by AndyT View Post
How's service over at Latham? I was going to head over there, but went with Warwick, because of the loaner program. And yes, I would make the trip! Start planning!
John and the crew with Smart (aided by the folks at Mercedes and with Keeler Motor Car) organized a Smarty Party the first year they opened. Story goes that when the rest of Keeler saw what an event it became, all the Keeler dealers joined in. Mercedes had a live band last year. Most dealers use their parties to sell cars to victims - er, party-goers. Smart Latham is totally different.

They had a little red carpet you drove on when you got there, and John took your picture with your car in front of the dealer. We had a Smart parade through 15 minutes of Albany up and around the airport, there were catered sandwiches, sides, snacks and cookies, and the crew even organized a trivia game right after lunch.

Smart Latham didn't want to sell you a car, they wanted you to come have fun, hang out, check out some of the latest Smart features (and panel colors) and walk away happy. No sales-pitch-in-the-face nonsense.

That's a yearly event now, and last year (I didn't make it) there was a separate Smart drive-in-movie night on the side of the building organized by the USA Insider team.

You've got to come for the Smarty Party. It was just so much fun. I'll find out when it is, and pass along the info to SCoA.
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post #13 of 14 (permalink) Old 04-08-2013, 05:51 PM
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I wish all service centers were like the Ray Catena Service Center. It is where I take my Smart car when it is serviced. I have usually taken it in for regular maintenance and have one sensor replaced. It is a place where one does not mind waiting for ones car to be worked on. Smart Center Edison.
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post #14 of 14 (permalink) Old 04-09-2013, 10:08 AM
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The Chicago network of dealers are rapidly expanding, but I mainly have experience with the two main dealers.

Lake Bluff (30+ miles from Chicago) is my closest dealer, it is situated in a high class suburb and is a part of the massive Knauz Autopark. Knauz groups a bunch of dealers into one huge area that might as well have its own zip code.

Their Land Rover dealer sits on a man made island, with the dealership made of glass and stone. Cars sit on top massive piles of rocks, looking like they just climbed K2 or something.

The rest of the dealers of Knauz follow this same format of being designed around their brands' image.

Unfortunately, Knauz left out Hyundai and smart during the design process. The Hyundai dealer is connected to their service center. Absolutely no thought was put into the design of the Hyundai dealer...white walls, black rubber floors, and awful looking cubicles occupying half the space. The three Hyundais they usually have on the showroom floor are awful examples of what would otherwise be awesome cars. A base model Veloster in black/black on the showroom floor? Yawn.

When Knauz added the smart center, all they did was cut the Hyundai dealer in half.

Thankfully, the smart center was given much more thought than the Hyundai side. The floors were glossy white tiles that reflected like a mirror. The walls were painted in a sort of off white with a thick yellow stripe about halfway up. They spruced them up by adding large, frameless portraits of 2008 smarts in motion and in picturesque environments.

The desks looked more like pieces of curvy modern art rather than workspaces, and they even had a lounge made of soft leather featuring many smart books and a magazine.

The showroom floor had six fortwos parked diagonally facing the door. Each one was a great interpretation of its trim level, especially when painted in a bright color.

The sales staff wore casual suits and had personalities that were more like a friend. Rather than guys trying to sell you a car. The smart center became my benchmark for what a car dealer should be! Unfortunately, that was 2008.

By 2010, all of the enthusiastic sales staff were replaced by people who didn't know a single thing about the cars they were selling. And despite wearing a smart shirt, they tried to sell you a HYUNDAI!!!

By 2012, all of the sales staff disappeared completely. The Brand Manager's office was empty, save for a computer and a chair. The name was even removed from the door. If you wanted a smart, you'd have to talk to the blatantly rude Hyundai guys. If you just stood in the smart center waiting for someone to come to you, you'd be waiting ALL day. The smart center became so neglected....

Even the service department was depressing. The dealer had no smart techs and had to get some from the Loeber dealer. You could tell by talking to the service writers that they really couldn't give two darns about you at all.

The service center's waiting room reminded me of the rooms they used for detention at High School, only with free expresso. Thankfully, the smart center's lounge was only 10 feet away, so I grabbed my expresso and waited there. On a plus side, the service center is incredibly massive. From entrance to exit it has to be at least a half mile long.

All in all, Lake Bluff is just an awful dealer. They are also unable to repair your car the FIRST time.

I stopped by a few days ago to see what's going on there. The smart center has been erased from the dealer almost completely. The once art gallery-like interior has been ripped out entirely, all that remains are the skeletons of the walls and a concrete floor.

The three remaining showroom demos are gathering dust in a corner of the lot. The two test drive cars are nowhere to be found. The pure that they had on a plinth had been replaced by a Hyundai Elantra.

Strangely the signs still remain, and the site is still up...but it looks like they are no more...

The other dealer in question is Loeber Motors, one of Chicago's most prestigious automotive groups. Their dealerships look like auto museums rather than places to buy cars. The smart center shares space with Mercedes, both have massive amounts of real estate.

The Mercedes side is decked out in glossy wood floors, shiny chandeliers, and classy decorated walls. It looks like the living room of a mansion, but with cars...

The smart side has the exact same design that smart center Lake Bluff has, but it has a more open floor plan with an archway as an entrance. When you enter the building, a lovely lady greets you and asks you what brand you came for. After a few more seconds, a brand manager will pop out of nowhere and greet you with a smile.

The dealer offers a delivery program like no other. No matter what you're buying from them, they give you the option to take delivery at the factory right when it comes off the line. You'll get a large percentage off from the purchase price and the dealer will ship it back to America too. Of course the program costs money, but it sounds like an awesome way to buy your dream car.

Their service center is smaller than Lake Bluff's, however they do offer much better comforts. Their loaner cars are often limited production special editions or are top spec. Then, their waiting room resembles a high end bar, featuring a bar with a huge selection of non-alcoholic drinks, a large TV showing the entire service bay (so you can watch your car get fixed), and a gift shop with goodies from all brands that Loeber sells.

Unfortunately, they're much more expensive for everything than Lake Bluff, and their techs are just as incompetent.
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