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posted: 2/7/2014 11:50 AM

New look, but same outlook at Liberty Auto City

Liberty Auto City completes 15-month renovation

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  • An enlarged showroom and customer lounge await buyers of new Chrysler, Dodge, Jeep, Ram Trucks, Subaru and Mazda vehicles at Liberty Auto City in Libertyville, says owner Joe Massarelli.

       An enlarged showroom and customer lounge await buyers of new Chrysler, Dodge, Jeep, Ram Trucks, Subaru and Mazda vehicles at Liberty Auto City in Libertyville, says owner Joe Massarelli.
    Photos by Steve Lundy | Staff Photographer

  • New technology is now in place at Liberty Auto City to help the dealership process sales more efficiently and quickly.

       New technology is now in place at Liberty Auto City to help the dealership process sales more efficiently and quickly.
    Steve Lundy | Staff Photographer

  • New Jeep Cherokees and Patriots await customers at Liberty Auto City in Libertyville.

       New Jeep Cherokees and Patriots await customers at Liberty Auto City in Libertyville.
    Steve Lundy | Staff Photographer

  • The new service area at Liberty Auto City has been expanded to three service lanes and 25 work bays.

       The new service area at Liberty Auto City has been expanded to three service lanes and 25 work bays.
    Steve Lundy | Staff Photographer

  • Liberty Auto City carries new Chrysler, Dodge, Jeep, Tam Truck, Subaru and Mazda vehicles.

       Liberty Auto City carries new Chrysler, Dodge, Jeep, Tam Truck, Subaru and Mazda vehicles.
    Steve Lundy | Staff Photographer

  • In addition to new cars and trucks, Liberty Auto City sells pre-owned vehicles in Libertyville.

       In addition to new cars and trucks, Liberty Auto City sells pre-owned vehicles in Libertyville.
    Steve Lundy | Staff Photographer

  • The new service area at Liberty Auto City has been expanded to three service lanes and 25 work bays.

       The new service area at Liberty Auto City has been expanded to three service lanes and 25 work bays.
    Steve Lundy | Staff Photographer

 
By Arlene Miles
Daily Herald Correspondent

For Joe Massarelli, family and community are tantamount, along with building relationships with customers.

As the dealer-principle of Liberty Auto City in Libertyville, Massarelli firmly believes family extends to his 120 employees. As the head of a family-run dealership, Massarelli takes pride in that customers will never have to deal with a corporation. Rather, they can always find someone in the building who will completely answer their questions.

The dealership, family-run since the 1960s, recently finished a 15-month renovation to the store that carries Chrysler, Dodge, Jeep, Ram Trucks, Subaru and Mazda vehicles. It not only brought an entirely new look to the facility, but also increased square footage to approximately 90,000 with expanded showroom, office and service space that allows the staff to work to the best of their ability.

Massarelli believes the expansion will help Liberty Auto City keep pace with a significant growth in sales the dealership experienced in 2013.

How does your philosophy make Liberty Auto different from other dealerships?

CraigAndrea, general manager. "Joe has a feel for consumers. You can get to know Joe, even though he is the dealer-principal. He's accessible. You can call him and he will answer his phone. Even though our facility is large, people still feel like they have a one-on-one relationship."

Massarelli. "We're not interested in selling you a car; we're interested in establishing a relationship."

What is the one element of your operations that really stands out?

Massarelli. "One thing that we try to do is constantly improve the customer experience. In listening to our customers, they all say it takes too long to buy a car. We have just installed DocuPads in the offices of all of our finance managers to streamline the delivery process and we are the only dealership in Lake County with this capability."

Andrea. "With a touch of your finger, you can approve all the necessary paperwork involved in buying a car. This speeds up the process considerably, particularly on 30-car days like Saturdays when customers are waiting for the finance managers. It's still new and there is a learning curve."

How has the remodeling of the facility impacted overall operations?

Massarelli. "We had exceptional employees in an old, tired building. Now we have given our world-class employees a world-class building in which to work. Our service department is new. We widened the entrance to give access to all types of vehicles, including the full-size Sprinter/Promaster vehicles. Service lanes have been expanded from one lane to three and we have 25 total work bays, serving mostly domestic vehicles and some imports.

"We have a state-of-the-art car wash that we give to our customers, free. Pick up and delivery service is available for all customers having work performed, and we also have a fleet of free loaners for customers who are having work done on their vehicles.

"The showroom is triple the size of our previous facility. We have increased the size of the customer lounge and added amenities such as a coffee bar and a children's playroom. As part of our remodeling of the store, I have renamed four areas in honor of each of my kids.

"For our employees, we have added a dedicated training room, something that we never had previously."

Andrea. "It gives customers a good feeling, makes them more confident that the dealer is reinvesting in the facility and in the fact that they are reinvesting in the community."

Massarelli. "By the end of the first quarter of 2014, we will also have a fully accessorized boutique department that will allow customers to customize their vehicles."

How does the way you treat employees translate into customer satisfaction?

Massarelli. "If you have happy employees who know they are appreciated, then the customers are happy and well taken care of. This is what gets you through the tough years, like the recession we just came out of. My employees don't have to ask my permission to take care of our customers when they have a need or problem, they just do it. My friends from grade school say I'm the same down-to-earth guy I was back then."

What are your favorite vehicles in the various manufacturer lines you carry?

Massarelli. "The new Jeep Cherokee has hit the market and has been completely redesigned from the ground up with great aerodynamic styling that doesn't give up any of the vehicle's rugged character. It has wonderful interior amenities and is fuel efficient, getting 26 miles per gallon city and 30 mpg on the highway.

"The John Varvatos Edition Chrysler 300 special edition is one of the most beautiful cars I have ever seen. Dodge continues to live up to its reputation of being a rebel. It's all about performance and attitude. When customers buy a Dodge, they're not buying a cookie-cutter car; they're buying a personal statement.

"There is a model in every brand we have that I would love to have in my driveway."

Andrea. "Since the recession, every manufacturer has upped its game. It's exciting to see people coming in here knowing everything about the car they want to buy.

"The new Chrysler 200 will be released in the summer. It's a state-of-the-art vehicle with a nine-speed transmission, all-wheel drive and aerodynamic styling."

What do you like about the automobile business?

Massarelli. "I love cars. To me, it's not just a business but a way of life. I try to make every decision here on what's right for our employees. It's all about treating everyone with respect and appreciation."

How do you participate in the Libertyville community?

Massarelli. "Liberty Auto started an annual food drive for the local food bank each December that all of the local dealerships participate in. I work with the College of Lake County Foundation. While it would be easy to work with a large university, I think it's more important to help the local community college to give disadvantaged students a chance to get an education.

"My wife and kids bring food to Great Lakes (Naval Training Station) for PADS. Every month, we pick at least one local charity to support. Even when times got tough we made sure we took care of the charities.

"It's important to appreciate what the community does for your business on a personal basis, so it is always important to give back to the community."

What do you like to do in your spare time?

Massarelli. "I'm a family man. My wife Margie and I met in high school and we have lived in Libertyville all of our lives. I am happiest when I am around my family. We love the Chicago Blackhawks and love to go to their games. I play hockey in a men's league."

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