Chevy All Stars Find Strength in Numbers

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – Individually, the dealerships that are a part of the Chevy All Star Dealers group are as varied as the communities they represent.

Some of the 17 dealerships operate on roads in the region with the heaviest traffic and they deliver 180-plus new cars to customers every month. Others, based in the downtowns of rural communities, sell 20.

No matter the size of the dealership, the All Stars have learned that it’s easier to work together than to go it alone.

There have been several iterations of the Chevy All Stars over the years, but the most recent was formed in 2011, composed of 13 dealerships in the Mahoning Valley plus three in Mercer County, Pennsylvania, and one in Ashtabula, Ohio. The dealers pool funds to buy advertisements for Chevrolet promotions, such as those that run during Chevy Truck Month or year-end closeouts.

At the end of each ad, a map of the 17 dealerships comes up while a voiceover directs customers to visit their local Chevy All Star dealer.

“You see national advertising and we supplement what they come out with. If they put out 20 ads with the award-winning Chevy Silverado, we buy another 20,” says Tom Brittain, owner of Brittain Motors in East Palestine and vice president of the All Stars. “It has our names behind it and a map of where we are. It gives people relevance to where they’re sitting.”

Adds Ben Bissett, president of the All Stars and owner of Ben Bissett Chevrolet in Mercer, Pa., “If Chevrolet is advertising the Cruze or trucks nationally, we tie in with that. That stops you from advertising one product when someone else is advertising another. It keeps things all tied together.”

Pictured: Ben Bissett, president of the All Stars and owner of Ben Bissett Chevrolet in Mercer, Pa.

The All Stars have a large presence at the Canfield Fair, with a display that features the newest models Chevrolet has to offer. And there’s a focus on the General Motors Lordstown Complex. The All Stars air advertisements that feature footage of the plant, the workers and the finished models, which over the years have included the Chevy Cavalier and Cobalt before the current Cruze began production.

“If they build it at Lordstown, we sell it and we do a strong job of being some of the best in nation in selling those cars,” Brittain says.

The success has extended beyond the locally made vehicles.

For a time, the Chevy All Stars had the No. 1 “objective attainment” for truck sales, that is, they met General Motors’ goals at a higher rate than any other marketing group in the country.

“That’s quite a feat because there are around 200 of them and we were No. 1 of all of them,” Brittain says.

Among those that are members of the Greater Cleveland Automobile Dealers’ Association, which represents 241 dealerships across 21 counties in Ohio, it’s not uncommon to see some of the Chevy All Stars near the top of the sales chart.

In August, for example, Greenwood Chevrolet, Stadium GM and Sweeney Chevrolet held the top three spots. Locally, in Mahoning, Trumbull and Columbiana counties, half of the top-10 dealerships are those that sell Chevrolets.

That success, Brittain and Bissett say, results in part to the advertising campaign the Chevy All Stars organized.

But the group has also brought dealers closer together, which in turn better serves customers. By holding monthly meetings, it’s easier for the dealers to get to know each other, which makes it easier for them to say yes to someone when the topic of trading cars comes up.

If Midway Chevrolet in Ashtabula needs a red Cruze hatchback and Power Chevrolet in East Liverpool needs a black four-door Silverado, they can trade models to meet their customers’ needs. While not a necessity, having relationships with another dealer has certainly simplified the process, the All Stars’ leaders agree.

When car sales slow, being able to trade for new inventory – especially when it’s something a customer wants – can be a lifeline.

During the Great Recession, when sales slowed to a near halt and General Motors was shuttering dealerships, Bissett says the All Stars knew they had to work together to survive.

“Nobody had inventory and we worked well together. We’d swap cars and it was critical to the survival of these businesses. The guys over in Youngstown knew how important it was,” he says. “Maybe they didn’t want to give a car up but they knew I needed it or Sweeney needed it or Greenwood needed it. That friendship came from this group.”

And those friendships have turned into more than just running ads that bear the names of dealerships that are also technically competitors. They vouch for each other. By sharing a name, the dealerships hold one another to the same standard.

“This is a really outstanding group of dealerships. They’ve all been together for a long time. The stores have been there forever,” Bissett says.

“They’re all quality dealers with good service departments. There isn’t one of them that I wouldn’t personally take my car to if I retired tomorrow.”

Pictured at top: “If they build it at Lordstown, we sell it,” says Tom Brittain, vice president of the All Stars.

Copyright 2024 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.