Greg Semack will locate a vehicle from a dealership, bring it to the customer for a test drive, sort out financing, prepare paperwork and make the delivery.
Semack heads Your Local Car Guys.
Joe (not his real name) is a car dealer’s dream. With a busy household full of drivers, theemployee tends to own or lease three to four vehicles at a time.
But he doesn’t like to go to dealerships, partly because it eats up a lot of time, partly because he has had some bad experiences. He regarded the car-buying experience as a necessary evil.
Then he met Greg Semack, president of Your Local Car Guys. Joe has leased 15 cars from Semack and enthusiastically refers others to the upstart firm that is something like a personal dealership.
Semack, 38, was brought up in the car business and worked with the Joe Ricci-Dodge-Jeep organization in Detroit from 1994 to 2003.
“I was taught the traditional way of selling cars, working on the showroom floor, the ‘10-steps-to-the-sale,’ and all the lingo,” he says.
But as his career progressed, Semack saw a need for a level of personal service that didn’t exist. Along with sales people who were displaced when their dealerships closed during network consolidation efforts, he launched Your Local Car Guys in 2009.
The goal is to take the aggravation out of buying or leasing a car for people who consider it a pain to do it on their own.
“It's all about saving time, hassle and money,” says Semack. “It’s an ownership experience vs. a car-buying experience.”
At a customer’s request, Semack’s team of six will locate a vehicle from their network of dealers, bring it to the customer for a test drive, sort out financing, prepare the paperwork, make the delivery and drive away with the trade or lease turn-in.
The customer doesn’t have to leave the comfort of his or her home or office.
Semack says his personal-shopper services are unique to the industry. It extends beyond car-buying to car servicing.
“My customers want to know that if there’s a problem on a Saturday afternoon, they can call me and I’ve got guys who'll work seven days to make sure they're happy,” he says. “They don't want to watch their car get towed to the dealership and have to wait until Monday morning to talk to a service guy, and then have to find a loaner.”
Detroit-area marketing executive Elaine Sables and her husband have leased or purchased six vehicles from Semack.
“Working full time and having three kids, I don’t have time to sit in a dealership," she says. She describes Semack’s enterprise as non-pressure, innovative and filling a need. “I would never go back to a dealership situation again.”
Semack works from a nondescript storefront in St. Clair Shores, MI. Visitors typically enter his office from an alley because the front door is sometimes locked. He wears shorts and a polo shirt, but that doesn’t matter because so much of his business is done over the phone and Internet.
He has about 5,000 customers, mostly in Michigan, but elsewhere too. “Right now I’ve got orders going to Minnesota, New York and Florida,” he says.
He represents 12 dealerships in Michigan and 13 franchises, including Chrysler, Jeep, Dodge,, Lincoln, Subaru, Chevrolet, GMC, Buick, Cadillac, , Mercedes and Porsche.
Semack actually is employed by Van Andel & Flikkema Chrysler-Jeep in Grand Rapids, MI, and Ed Koehnin Greenville, MI. He insists he is not a car broker, pointing out the differences.
Your Local Car Guys Finance Manager Rob Hutton works for K&M Dodge in Grand Rapids and Orrin B. Hayes-Mercedes in Kalamazoo, MI.
“For some stores, it’s easier to be a contract employee, and they send us a check,” Semack says. “For our primary stores, we’re W-2 employees. They consider us no different from a guy on the floor.”
While a salesperson typically makes 20% of the profit on a sale, his company earns between 45% and 50%, he says. “You're bringing customers that may not be shopping a dealer’s showroom. It’s found business.”
Chris Brokaw, general sales manager at Van Andell & Flikkema, has a sweet way of putting it.
“I look at business here in my zipcodes as the cake, and I look at Greg Semack as the frosting,” he says. “Whatever I’m getting from him is business I wouldn’t be getting if I didn't have an association with Your Local Car Guys.”
Chrysler, Ford andspokesmen say they are not aware of Semack’s company. GM and Chrysler declined to comment on Semack’s business model; Ford spokeswoman Elizabeth Weigandt says: “If it's positive for our dealers, then it's certainly positive for Ford.”
Semack attributes his success not only to personal service, but also to recognizing that rewards will come from not getting greedy.
“I’ve always been a volume guy, because I know that with volume comes gross,” he says. “More volume means more customers, and more customers means more gross.
“I knew a guy in Atlanta who said he wouldn’t accept a deal with less than $3,500 of profit. With that position, you turn people away who will have a bad attitude because you tried to gross them vs. shaving the deal down and have a return customer who also sends people your way.”
Semack is thinking about doing community ride-and-drives for local groups. Also under consideration is “taking the Tupperware format and bringing it to the house,” he says. “There’s nothing I do that’s inside the box.”