MERRILLVILLE, IN – Mike Anderson Chevrolet consistently has finished first or second in metro Chicago sales despite stiff competition from many same-brand dealers in the market.

Anderson's CEO, Mike Anderson Jr., 31, set No. 1 or No. 2 as his goal four years ago when he took command of this family-owned store in a suburb south of the Windy City.

Service satisfaction would be his route to the top rungs.

To achieve service supremacy, Anderson encouraged service employees to complete more service-related courses than the minimum required by General Motors Corp. This helped give the dealership a reputation for service excellence.

“The professional videos, as an employee training medium, are a terrific way of mentoring customer and employee satisfaction,” Anderson says. Sandy Holman, vice president of fixed operations for the group, joined the first Mike Anderson dealership, in the Chicago suburb of Crown Point, IN, at the age of 18 in 1979.

Her first job was as a parts inventory clerk. She recalls that Mike Anderson's father and grandfather “were as devoted to the fixed operations side of the business as Mike Jr. is today.”

The 35 service employees average from 75 to 88 repair orders a day, she says. The dealership has 115 employees in all.

“Service satisfaction remains a prime goal for this dealership,” says Service Manager Lee Stahr, who joined the group in 1982. “We service all brands. And the fact that everyone is certified for a full array of GM’s training courses is a definite asset.”

Mike Anderson Chevrolet performs warranty work on all GM brands, and has hired a Saab-trained technician to work on Saab cars brought in for service.

“We service all other brands and we do the Chevys sold by us,” Stahr says. “Being No. 1 in service has brought us a big lift in sales in this tough Chicago market.”

The service staff participates in Raytheon-developed online training courses, which are watched on a giant wall screen in a special training room. The technicians also can watch them at home.

“Thanks to the online videos, we're fully familiar with the Chevy Volt electric system and the hybrid-dual mode powertrain on the Tahoe SUV,” Stahr says. “The online training courses are really advanced, because they let the technicians get immediate answers to questions on the job.”

Advertising touts the dealership’s service department.

“Our website (mikeandersonchevy.com) promotes service specials and seasonal sales programs,” Anderson says.

The huge showroom can accommodate 12 vehicles and the expanded service department has 25 bays. A bustling adjacent body shop is another asset.

Anderson says there are too many Chevy stores in the Chicago market –16 in a 12-mile radius, 54 overall. Although, in December, he purchased one of them, ZFrank Chevrolet, located on the north side of Chicago.

“It gives us a south-side and north-side sales outlets, which we will need when the market recovers in new cars,” Anderson says. “I foresee a quick rebound later this year, hopefully when GMAC returns to leasing.”

Anderson’s father, Mike Anderson, Sr., runs a separate group of GM and Chrysler stores in smaller Indiana cities such as Logansport, Gas City and Marion.

Anderson's sales in Merrillville averaged 240 new and used units a month, before the recession struck last fall. March sales slid 100 vehicles from a year earlier.

“We can't wait for the new Camaro, Volt and Cruze to help light up Chevy's sales,” Anderson says. “There is no better lineup in a domestic brand, and that goes for trucks as well as cars. Chicago is now a Chevy city, thanks to our great lineup, but each of us battles nearby Ford dealers.”