When you're shopping for a car, the experience you have at a dealership can make all the difference. At Edmunds.com, Senior Editor Matt Jones is setting out to highlight dealerships that make car-shopping easy and enjoyable. Here's the first of these stories — look for more of them soon.
Saying that Longo Toyota is one of the world's largest car dealerships is easy. But spelling out what big means takes some explanation: It's literally big, covering about 38 football fields. It's not uncommon to see employees driving around the campus in golf carts. It's big in sales, selling more than 1,000 vehicles per month. Indeed, it has been the nation's No. 1 volume seller of new Toyotas since the dealership opened in 1967.
Longo is also a big employer, with what you could call a global presence: nearly 650 people work for the dealership, including 100 salespeople and collectively, they speak 41 languages and dialects.
Size is not the only thing that sets apart the El Monte, California, dealership, which is owned by the Penske Automotive Group. Longo really stands out because of the services it offers its customers and community. In this day of progressive car dealers, great customer service is expected, along with fair prices and a pleasant buying experience. Longo Toyota goes several steps beyond what customers expect, offering services that buyers would be more likely to find in a shopping mall than a car dealership.
"We want to give a guest the best experience and a convenient place to do business," Greg Penske, president of Penske Automotive Group, told Automotive News in 2006.
In the highly competitive Los Angeles County market, where nearly 500,000 cars were sold in 2012, Longo's amenities are unique. Within the dealership are a Subway restaurant, a Starbucks, a Verizon Wireless store, a full-service branch of the Automobile Club of Southern California and two Enterprise car rental offices.
At the Verizon Playground, shoppers can pay their phone bills, charge their phones or buy accessories. The Enterprise offices are not solely for Longo customers' use, but for anyone who needs a rental. The Starbucks Café is the size of a standalone store, and the onsite Subway has the same Five Dollar Footlongs, soups and cookies you'd find in your local strip mall location.
There is also a kids' play area, filled with diversions to keep them entertained. The play room has two Nintendo, two Xbox and one PlayStation kiosks, and more traditional board games, too. There's also a wide-screen television for watching movies.
Shoppers, meanwhile, can use a quiet business center that's equipped with high-speed Internet. Service department customers have free access to iPads while they're waiting for their vehicles.
And to make car-buying even more convenient, Longo has a Monday through Saturday delivery service that will deliver buyers' new cars to their homes (up to 50 miles away), without charge.
All of that focus on customers has paid off for Longo. Toyota has given the dealership numerous awards for top customer satisfaction, and it has won accolades from the Los Angeles Times, Automotive News and the American Heart Association. Longo also has won the Women's Choice Award, given by WomenCertified, in both 2012 and 2013 for consistently providing outstanding sales and service experiences.
Employees Make a Difference
Longo proudly employs a diverse staff, and that's a key to its success, says Brendan Harrington, Longo's president and general manager.
"We are a melting pot that positively reflects this wonderful city of Los Angeles," he says. Harringon notes with pride that the dealership's turnover rate is less than 10 percent — including retirements. The average tenure is more than nine years. Longo maintains an onsite gym for employees as part of its effort to keep them fit and happy.
"Our team members love working here, and that enthusiasm really registers with our guests," he says.
In addition to its primary work selling and servicing cars, Longo Toyota also is committed to giving back to its community. It invites local high school students to help wash and dry cars in the service department every Saturday. In return, the groups receive $500 for their school or student programs. During the summer Longo hosts a movie series. It shows films at the dealership on select Friday nights at sunset, and invites local schools and charities to sell concessions for fundraisers at the events.
And since Longo has plenty of meeting rooms, including one that will seat 100, it regularly lets non-profit organizations use the spaces when they're not needed by the dealership.
The Girls Scouts of Greater Los Angeles, the El Monte Police Department Explorer program, California State University Long Beach and Los Angeles Children's Hospital are some of the groups that have recently used the donated space at Longo Toyota.
When pressed to talk more about why Longo goes the extra mile in its service to the community, Harrington demurs a bit. "We don't like to toot our own horn," he says, but adds that the dealership gives back "because we can and we should."
"Ninety-nine percent of what we do flies under the radar," Harrington says. "But we think it's important to give back to the community as it gives to us."