Two facts have remained constant for the Marquardt family over the past 50 years -- an automobile dealership carrying the family name has remained a part of the Barrington landscape, and the family always has remained true to the Buick name.
These two facts, combined with a business ethic that calls for building relationships with customers, have made Marquardt of Barrington a fixture in the community, first with founder Larry Marquardt, and now with sons and second-generation owners Dan and Kurt.
Auto BiographyKurt Marquardt, dealer-partner, president
Dan Marquardt, dealer-partner, vice president and general manager
1421 S. Barrington Road Barrington, IL 60010 www.marquardtbuick.com
Monday-Friday, 9 a.m.--9 p.m.
Saturday, 9 a.m--6 p.m.
Monday-Friday, 7 a.m.--6 p.m.
Saturday, 7 a.m.-4 p.m.
While most dealerships that survived the Great Recession evolved into mega stores with multiple brands, Marquardt Buick-GMC still retains its homey feel, with cedar-beamed ceilings and Italian tile floors, operating out of the same location on Barrington Road for the past 41 years. Prior to that, the dealership had a smaller building in downtown Barrington that is now occupied by a Cadillac store.
Dan Marquardt talks about the dealership's first half century and changing times in the auto industry.
Why did your father selection Buick for his dealership?
"My father was a Korean War veteran and when he got out of the army he started working in the business because he loved cars. Even back then, however, he saw the lack of conviction in scruples in the business and said the only way he could stay in the business was to have his own dealership.
"Buick was a hot product back then and he always coined the Barrington area as recession-proof. He began working in sales at Schauble and Collins Buick, became sales manager a year later and eventually entered into an agreement to buy the dealership, becoming full owner in 1962."
How did your father's business philosophy play into the success of Marquardt Buick?
"Our father always had a vision. He looked at the long-term perspective and told us that people always want to buy from people they know, but more importantly, from people they like. He could say, looking out at the showroom and pointing to a person out there, he'd list all of the cars that the individual had bought, along with their sons or daughters and other family members, resulting in dozens of sales over the years. He knew this way before customer satisfaction indexes and sales metrics came into play.
"We are devout Christians and our faith and commitment demonstrates and models this to our staff, showing honesty and integrity, even when it is difficult. Looking to these principles has been the ultimate formula for our success."
What was it like growing up in the automobile business?
"I began working here when I was 13 years old and I learned very quickly that there would be no preferential treatment from my father -- in fact it was the opposite. He told the service director to fire me if I wasn't doing a good job. Kurt and I did everything. He used to be the Rusty Jones detailer. We did everything from writing service (orders) to working in parts, sales and finance. I went to Northwood University in Michigan and Kurt went to Drake University.
"I knew from the beginning I wanted to work in the car business, but I came to a crossroads when I graduated from college and I was offered a position with Buick. I asked my father what I should do and he told me to think about my life and the impact it would have on a family. He told me that no matter how high I would go with Buick, I would always have a boss above me. As a business owner, it's different, so I chose to do this."
What do you think the future holds for Marquardt Buick?
"Kurt and I became owners at a very tumultuous time in 2001 when our father died, but the great foundation he gave us got us through the tough times. A lot of dealers got wind-down agreements (during the recession), but we did not.
"It's back to a point now where we see seven to 10 years of projected growth, and there's not a lot of industries that can say that right now. When the financial crisis hit, 18 million new cars were sold annually in the United States. That number dropped to 10 million. Now it's on the mend and we're starting to approach that number again.
"It's a very bright future for our company, Buick and GMC.
"GM actually thinks there are still too many dealers. Libertyville Buick-GMC closed earlier this year and Woody Buick in Elgin relocated to Naperville, so two of our closest competitors have gone away and that has provided substantial growth. We brought about 10 of Woody's employees here, including Carey Lunch, our general sales manager. She's a rarity to find -- a woman with her management and retail automotive experience. As over half of our buyers are women, her ability to interact with women can make them comfortable.
"We are initiating 'Door-to-Door Service' to help our customers who need service work performed on their vehicles. We will come to their home or office, wherever it is convenient, and try to give them a similar model to what they are presently driving, and then return with their vehicle when the work is complete."
What do you like about Buick's current lineup of vehicles?
"It's exciting to see Buick going back to their luxury-car roots that they never should have left. The more premium Buick goes, the better it is. The GMC Denali lines are also premium. Buicks, in the past, were always elegant and fun to drive, but never ostentatious -- always a little subdued. They were luxurious, refined, dependable and comfortable, all wrapped into one package.
"Most of the buyers we are getting now are coming in with Acuras, Infinitis, BMWs, Lexus. Buick is winning back customers they had decades ago and we're putting them into cars that are often $20,000 less than what they are currently driving."
How do you motivate your employees?
"It's all about treating the employees well and modeling how we like to be treated. This helps build on the long-term relationships that we have with customers because every time they come in they see the same service adviser, the same technicians, sales staff, etc. It all adds into the whole chemistry of being a part of a family.
"In order to have a good professional life, you must have a good home life, so we're conservative on our demands on our employees' time. There are no 50-hour work weeks here, unless they want to work more. We still pay 100 percent of health insurance costs and make it a point that our store is closed on holidays so they can have time with their families."
How does Marquardt Buick give back to the community?
"We support many different ministries and organizations every year. We have donated hundreds of thousands of dollars in vehicles to Operation Click over the years, a student safe-driving program.
"In November, we are doing a 'Drive4$50' partnership with Barrington High School. This is a grass roots program that allows a nonprofit to raise money. Every time someone comes in for a test drive and mentions the program, we donate $50 to the organization.
"We recently did a fundraiser with Feed My Starving Children and we support most local community functions. We are a silver sponsor of the upcoming first ChristKindleFest in Barrington for about the past six to eight years. Both Kurt and I are active in the community: he has been president of the Barrington Chamber of Commerce and Barrington Rotary and I have been Barrington Lions Club president."
What do you do in your spare time?
"My wife, Jennifer, and I are very family oriented. We are in the process of adopting child No. 8 from China. We have three biological children and four adopted children. James 1:27 is a call to care for orphans and we felt it was a clear mandate from God to do this. The joys that we have received from these children are beyond words."