Staying focused

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They‘ve invested in hiring and training employees to serve the growing needs of today‘s owner-operators and truck fleets.” --Mike Conroy, director of dealer network development at Peterbilt, on the award winning performance at Peterbilt of Sioux City


It‘s a tough time to be selling trucks these days, no doubt about it. Class 8 sales fell nearly 47% last year, dropping to 150,965 units from 284,008 in 2006, according to Ward‘s AutoInfoBank. Sales in the medium-duty Class 6 & 7 market fared only slightly better, contracting by 36,608 units or 22% to 220,128 units in 2007.


This year hasn‘t been much better. Bill Jackson, general manager for Peterbilt Motors Co., for one, believes Class 8 sales in the U.S. should total 175,000 to 215,000 units for 2008, while medium-duty Class 5-7 sales should total between 80,000 to 95,000 units for the year.


With those statistics in mind, you‘d think this would be a time for dealers to pull in their horns, ratchet back on costs across the board, probably delaying investments in their business until some form of light is visible at the end of the current economic tunnel we‘re in. But that‘s not always so.


Take Sioux City Truck Sales (SCTS) for example. Founded in 1954 by G. L. Wilson, SCTS operates three full-service Peterbilt dealerships serving Iowa, eastern Nebraska and southeastern South Dakota (in the cities of Sioux City, Des Moines and Council Bluffs, respectively) providing new and used truck sales plus all-makes parts and service. And they don‘t just sell one kind of truck, either: SCTS offers a full-line of Peterbilt highway tractors, vocational and medium-duty delivery trucks.


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(SCTS's dealership in Sioux City, Iowa, which racked up several national awards for sales and customer satisfaction.)


As a family-owned business, SCTS is what I like to call “old school” in a good way: the biggest reason being how the company quickly gives credit for their success to their hard-working employees. That‘s the basis of SCTS‘s reputation and the reason they‘ve managed to keep selling trucks and other services despite the current downturn.


“I believe our great success during 2007 was built on a combination of ingredients,” said Brad Wilson, the company‘s CEO. “Our employees have a long history and good reputation of providing quality service to our customers. Now, our skilled workers have an excellent new facility through which they can more efficiently serve our customers.”


He‘s talking about their now-finished effort to replace its 40-year-old building at the Sioux City dealership and construct a new $5 million facility, plus hire additional employees. The new building, which opened in fall of 2006, features an indoor vehicle inspection/diagnostics area and quick lube area, offers 16 service bays, a body shop completed with a frame correction and alignment center, 80-foot-long paint booth, two wash bays and stalls for working on seven trucks.


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(The new interior at Peterbilt of Sioux City.)



“We invested in the new facility that allows us to provide a higher-level of service to even more customers,” Brad noted. “And our customers responded during 2007 with increased purchases in several categories.”


He also pointed out that his family‘s Peterbilt of Sioux City location recently received the 2007 “Best in Class Dealer of the Year ” and the “TruckCare Dealer of the Year” awards from Peterbilt Motors Co. - and he gave all 60 employees working there a custom jacket in honor of their contribution toward earning these awards, something I think goes a long way to reinforcing esprit de corps in this industry.


Note, too, that his Sioux City dealership won the awards in competition against all other Peterbilt dealers in the U.S. and Canada - and that‘s some pretty serious competition in anyone‘s book.


“The ‘Best in Class‘ award recognizes overall dealer performance, including the business side of the dealership - profitability, growth, business processes and financials,” said Mike Conroy, director of dealer network development at Peterbilt. “The Sioux City dealership demonstrated outstanding performance during 2007 in all of these business measurements,” noting that Sioux City‘s market share of Class 8 trucks sales more than doubled Peterbilt‘s national average during 2007.


The “TruckCare Dealer of the Year” award recognizes the dealership that achieved its parts, service and preventative-maintenance contract sales goals and provided the highest levels of customer satisfaction - an Sioux City received a perfect score of 100% for its roadside assistance call center response rate and a 99% customer satisfaction rating.


“The TruckCare award is a tribute to the employees in our service, body shop and parts departments for outstanding performance and growth in 2007,” said Wilson. “The sales volume for parts and service increased 29% and 23% respectively during their first year in the new building. This award honors the skills and dedication of our customer-focused employees.”


You don‘t rack up numbers - or awards - like that without staying focused on the fundamentals in the trucking business, and those fundamentals are getting tougher all the time. It‘s nice to see some very hard work get some high accolades as well.


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(Displaying Sioux City Peterbilt‘s awards are (left to right) Jeff Petersen, sales manager; CEO Brad Wilson; Rick Burkhart, parts manager; Jim Gard, warranty manager; Jerry Hesse, body shop manager; and Harland Gylfe, service manager.)

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