New London — Whaling Metropolis Motors, a one-family enterprise that took root within the metropolis greater than six a long time in the past underneath the management of Holocaust survivor Sigmund Strochlitz, has been bought to a brand new possession staff with a long time of expertise within the automobile trade.
Companions Filippo Marchionne of Westerly and Shawna Renna of Brookfield introduced the change of possession and a reputation change to Whaling Metropolis Motor Group final week, having taken over from Strochlitz’s daughter and son-in-law Romana and Charles Primus on July 30. Marchionne, the corporate president, had been working as normal supervisor at Whaling Metropolis for the previous two years; Renna, now vice chairman, joined the enterprise a number of months in the past in a monetary place.
“We liked working at Whaling Metropolis, nevertheless it was time,” Charles Primus mentioned in a cellphone interview Friday.
“We predict (they’re) going to do an incredible job,” Romana Primus added. “We would not promote it to only anyone.”
“I’ve modified a number of small issues,” mentioned Marchionne, sitting at a desk behind which the late Strochlitz’s image continues to be displayed prominently, “however I function the identical manner they did. … It is concerning the ease of doing enterprise, customer support, totally clear transactions, giving folks all the data. The previous manner of doing enterprise (within the automobile trade) is actually gone.”
“Fame is all the things to us,” he added, quoting Warren Buffet’s line that “It takes a lifetime to construct a fame and solely 10 minutes to break it.”
Renna mentioned response time can be key within the present on-line atmosphere. The concept is to reply inside 10 minutes to an inquiry a couple of automobile.
“In the event you do not reply, they’re gone,” she mentioned.
The long-winded gross sales pitch can be largely a factor of the previous, they mentioned. In lots of instances, folks order automobiles on-line, are available in to signal papers after which are gone. Or they ask for the automobile to be delivered, sight unseen.
Marchionne reported that the transition to new possession has been easy. Almost the entire workers from the Primus staff have stayed on, he added, and a number of other others obtained promotions. Individuals who stayed on retained their seniority, he mentioned, which in some instances included twenty years or extra.
Marchionne, 40, grew up within the automobile enterprise, tagging alongside after his father, who additionally spent years as normal supervisor of automobile dealerships alongside the Jap Seaboard. Collectively, they helped rescue distressed dealerships, he mentioned, and it did not take lengthy earlier than he landed his first normal supervisor place a couple of decade in the past. He mentioned the Primuses reached out to him to take over Whaling Metropolis after he left his earlier job.
Now, he’s in command of 52 workers, with hopes of hiring extra in nearly each a part of the enterprise: gross sales, service, elements and physique store. The plan down the street is to open extra stand-alone dealerships, maybe together with completely different automobile manufacturers at completely different places, therefore the identify change to “auto group.”
“We imagine on this local weather in case you’re not rising you are closing,” Marchionne mentioned. “However we need to develop in the fitting manner.”
Whaling Metropolis began as a Ford dealership, however now additionally sells Mazdas and Lincolns, together with a number of used automobiles. The primary few months of COVID had been exhausting on the automobile trade, Marchionne mentioned, since a number of vegetation had been transformed to fabricate ventilators and private protecting gear, so manufacturing of autos slowed. However issues are selecting up, he added, and Marchionne is happy about such new merchandise because the reimagined Ford Bronco and the all-electric Mustang Marquis (Whaling Metropolis will quickly be putting in charging stations on-site).
In fact, the pandemic created different challenges, together with the pressured closure of the deadlership showroom for a time. However all the things is open now, with plexiglas put in between workstations, everybody sporting masks and cleansing of the showroom at the least 4 instances a day.
“We’re altering with the instances,” Marchionne mentioned.
However he hasn’t forgot about enjoyable. Every time a automobile is bought, the brand new house owners get to whack a big gong put in in Marchionne’s workplace.
“We give everybody an expertise that they do not need to overlook,” he mentioned.
Marchionne mentioned he likes being within the heart of New London’s automobile dealership row, with 16 different new-car sellers throughout him. The dealership’s location simply off Interstate 95 makes it simple to get right here from as distant as New Haven and Windfall in an hour or much less.
“It is a nice automobile market,” he added.
And the market is nice regardless of the pandemic and low stock. Marchionne mentioned a low provide of used automobiles has introduced enterprise from so far as Fairfield County and Lengthy Island. What’s extra, with metropolis dwellers shifting to the suburbs there’s a new marketplace for automobiles amongst individuals who have by no means wanted them earlier than, he mentioned.
“I’ve had 40-, 50- and 60-year-olds purchase their first automobile,” Marchionne mentioned. “We’re pulling from all over the place.”
Passing on a legacy
Whaling Metropolis Ford dates again to 1957 when Strochlitz, a survivor of Auschwitz, determined to relocate from Lengthy Island to New London to open a dealership downtown on Eugene O’Neill Drive (previously Principal Avenue). A decade later, he moved the dealership to its present location on the nook of Broad and Colman Streets.
Strochlitz died in 2006, working nearly to the tip, and his daughter and son-in-law took over the enterprise. They rapidly modernized, including the Mazda and Lincoln manufacturers, bettering the showroom, restore store and ready rooms and increasing the Whaling Metropolis footprint to the closely traveled metropolis nook by buying and leasing properties to achieve a extra distinguished piece of the area’s automobile nook.
Romana Primus mentioned she is going to keep busy as president of the Jewish Federation of Jap Connecticut, and Charles added that they’ve various nonprofit tasks that they plan to spearhead as effectively.
“We anticipate to be fairly busy,” he mentioned.
The Primuses are completely satisfied to be leaving the enterprise to somebody who understands what a particular place it’s and has an identical view of the right way to deal with prospects, they mentioned.
“It is by no means simple to surrender a legacy, however we actually suppose in Filippo we have discovered an individual who understands that legacy,” Romana Primus mentioned.