Sweeney Dealerships Embrace Technology to Serve Customers

BOARDMAN, Ohio – Last year was “surprisingly positive” for Sweeney Chevrolet Buick GMC of Boardman.

“There’s no question there are challenges with new-car inventory. But we’ve made the best of it,” says Alexa Sweeney Blackann, president.

The dealership tapped its strong network of lease customers, for instance, by waiving lease disposition fees and paying customers $2,000 for their GM lease returns to populate their used-vehicle inventory. In turn, the used-vehicle side of the business performed above expectation.

“We think the worst is over” with inventory shortages, Sweeney Blackann says. Although the global supply chain constraints will likely remain an issue through 2022, GM has committed to getting more vehicles to the Sweeney dealerships.

Doug Sweeney and his daughter, Alexa Sweeney Blackann, welcomed customers to a summer gala to celebrate the dealership’s 100th year.

“What used to be inventory on our lots is now inventory in the database,” she says. “We are still the No. 1 store in the area for selection. Now, customers are able to select their vehicle before it arrives.”

Taking the wheel in the midst of low new-vehicle inventory, the sales team embraced new ways of serving customers and selling vehicles.

“First, we put a lot of effort into keeping everyone healthy,” Sweeney Blackann says. “Then we looked for new ways to learn about and service the customer. Much of that was by putting ourselves in the customer’s shoes, building their trust and embracing technology.”

One example is the increasing use of Sweeney Fast Pass, introduced in 2020 as a way for customers to do as much of their purchase online as they’re comfortable doing.

“Buyers were very enthusiastic about it. Plus it helped us attract customers from a larger geographic footprint,” Sweeney Blackann said. “It enables customers to do research on their own terms. It’s safe, secure and in some cases the whole transaction was completed online and the vehicles were delivered to the customer’s home.”

Other 2021 highlights included:

• The four-generation family-owned dealership celebrated its 100th anniversary.

• GM executives presented Sweeney with the Mark of Excellence Award, the automaker’s top honor for dealerships.

• Employee contributions to the local United Way increased 12% and the dealership added $15,040 through its Operation Santa campaign.

• In terms of employment, the dealership returned to pre-pandemic level staffing of 200-plus employees.

Keeping in tune with the reinvention of the area to Voltage Valley, Sweeney anticipates strong demand for Silverado EV and Equinox EV models, each to debut later this year. Charging infrastructure for the upcoming GMC Hummer EV and fast chargers are also anticipated at both dealerships.

General Motors has pledged to continue to support internal combustion engines while it transitions to electric vehicles, Sweeney Blackann says.

As a new era in electric vehicles dawns at Sweeney, so will the needs of the staff. As such, the dealership will continue to recruit product specialists and technicians trained for supporting EV technology, she says.

Copyright 2022 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.