- Fitzgerald Auto Malls of Annapolis and Bethesda, Maryland, have been helping parents put child safety seats properly into cars since 1999, spurred by founder and CEO Jack Fitzgerald's desire to ensure kids are safely seated in the car.
- Fitzgerald just celebrated the completion of its 45,000th child seat inspection in May.
- The auto dealer group conducts monthly child seat inspections, March through December, right at the dealership, plus an annual inspection day just for Spanish-speaking families.
ANNAPOLIS, Maryland — Fitzgerald Auto Malls has made a strong commitment to correctly installed child safety seats as part of overall family safety awareness in the car.
That's why this dealership group has obtained formal training so it will have 50 employees at all times who know the right way to install a child safety seat in the car, and that's why the dealer holds regular child seat inspection and installation events for the public. The next scheduled event is Thursday, Sept. 18.
Since 1999, when founder and CEO Jack Fitzgerald first became aware that three-quarters of child seats are reported to be incorrectly installed, the dealership group has held in-dealership child safety inspection and installation events regularly. The employees are trained through the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's four-day course to get Child Passenger Safety Certification.
Larry Branche, who is Fitzgerald Auto Malls' child passenger safety instructor and director, told Edmunds: "Mr. Fitzgerald made it clear early on that this is 100 percent total philanthropy and community service. We do not do this to sell, and there is absolutely no 'Hey, would you like to buy another car' at these events."
Families can come in without an appointment on the third Thursday of each month to one of the dealer's inspection stations, he said. Inspections take about 30 minutes and are free. It's also possible to schedule a specific appointment Tuesday through Thursday at one of four Maryland dealership locations.
Branche said it's not unusual for 100 or more people to come to one of the regularly scheduled events to have their car seats checked.
Fitzgerald Auto Malls works in conjunction with public and private organizations and, for example, last September was able to give away 100 donated child safety and booster seats at its fourth annual Hispanic Child Safety Seat event at its Gaithersburg, Maryland, dealerships. This Saturday, September 20, will be the fifth annual event specifically for Spanish-speaking parents and their children.
Maryland Attorney General Douglas Gansler, at a ceremony to thank Fitzgerald Auto Malls for the program, called the dealer's efforts "a unique public-private partnership that has helped 45,000 children travel safer and given at least as many families greater peace of mind."
Fitzgerald Auto Malls is a group of nine dealerships, five service and repair centers, and two used-car facilities in Annapolis, Bethesda and other Maryland locations. The company sells Chevrolet, Cadillac, GMC, and Buick; Chrysler, Dodge, Jeep, and Ram; Mazda, Mitsubishi, Hyundai, Subaru, Volkswagen, and Toyota and Scion product lines. Fitzgerald also has locations in Pennsylvania and Florida.
Branche told Edmunds that the dealership has received "extremely positive" feedback from the people who come to these car seat events.
"I had a person come in with a brand-new car they'd bought somewhere else," he said. "We're putting the child seat in, we're interacting with them. At the end, they told us, if we care this much about their family when they didn't buy their car from us, they can only imagine how well they'd be treated if they had bought it from us. There's no way to put a price on that. I'm very proud to be part of it."
Edmunds says: This has got to be some kind of world record for a dealer's hands-on check of individual car seats, and what a way to bring families and dealership employees together for a good cause.