Written by The Business Journal Staff
Ed Dena’s Auto Center, Dinuba
EDUCATION: Tulare Western High School; Never stepped foot on a college campus
FAMILY: Wife, Ida, and two grown daughters
What first sparked your interest in the auto industry, Ed?
My wife and I were dating in high school and her brother was working as a car salesman. He convinced me to give selling cars a try. So I began in Oxnard at a Chevrolet dealership. I met my first customer on the lot and sold him a car. My first month, I was the top salesman. I fell in love with the business instantly. All my life I had been selling stuff, I sold furniture in high school. Cars were fun to sell. I loved what I was doing.
How did you become an owner of a dealership, Ed?
We moved back to Tulare and I worked for 10 years at a dealership and then FIVE years in management. Then Dinuba found me. Bret Northington, who owned Bret’s Auto Center, wanted me to work for him and he promised me the opportunity to buy in within a few years. He kept his word and we operated as partners for a number of years. Then I bought him out, and we eventually changed the name to Ed Dena’s Auto Center.
What kind of vehicles do you carry, Ed?
As a GM franchise, we have Chevrolet, Buick, and GMC all at one location. We also have a huge inventory of pre-owned vehicles, every make and model. We pride ourselves on searching and finding whatever a client wants.
What makes Ed Dena’s Auto Center different from other dealers?
As a rule, the whole car buying process isn’t easy. Most dealers put you through their “system,” for example; they want a credit app before they will quote you a price. We don’t have a selling system; every deal is different. We’re kind of like Burger King — you can have it your way. If you want an appraisal of your current vehicle first, we’ll do that. All the time, I hear from people who have been to other dealerships, “They wouldn’t give us a price, they wanted us to make an offer.” We won’t hesitate to give someone a price. People love us because of how we treat them.
What is your philosophy with respect to employees, Ed?
Our goal has always been to be the best dealership in the Valley, not just for the customer, but also for our employees. We treat our employees like gold. You buy a car here and years later, when you come back, your sales rep is still here. I have guys who have been here since the beginning.
How did the recession of 2008 affect your business? What did you do to weather the storm, Ed?
As a dealer, it was the most difficult thing I’ve ever been through. I aged ten years in two. I got all my employees together and told them, “We’re not going anywhere. I don’t have any other businesses, this is it, I’m all in. If I must, I’m going to keep borrowing money until I can’t do it anymore. We scaled back our inventory. Those years took out a lot of dealers, many closed their doors.
Do you feel you’ve emerged from the recession stronger, Ed?
Yes. It was ugly and painful, but we’re in the black now and coming back stronger than ever.
Do you use traditional or “new” marketing techniques, Ed?
Our most “traditional” marketing is simply being friendly, getting to know people, and caring about their interests. We also do television and radio. We still do print and direct mail, but not as much as we used to. We have a website where people can shop, ask questions, and make an appointment. We also do Internet banner ads and social media.
What is the biggest misconception people have about purchasing a vehicle
People don’t buy cars everyday and they fear they are going to overpay for their new vehicles. It’s a major purchase, and people fear they will be taken advantage of. Our goal is to assure them that we have their best interests at heart, they are going to get a fair price and all their automotive needs can be taken care of by us. I teach my sales reps to be friendly, reassuring, and to let customers know that ripping people off is not what we do.
What’s new at Ed Dena’s Auto Center, Ed?
We have a newly remodeled showroom that took us six months to build. It’s now a state-of-the-art dealership. Also we have the all-new Silverado and GMC Sierra trucks. The Silverado is a completely new truck and it’s awesome.
Where do you see your company ten years from now, Ed?
We’ll have a larger customer base, but we’ll be doing things exactly the way we do them now. People love us for the way we do business. It’s not broken and we’re not going to fix it.
How does Ed Dena’s Auto Center give back to the community?
We set aside a large part of our advertising budget for sponsorships and giving. Examples of our charities include: Children’s Hospital, Ruiz for Kids and Happy Trails Riding Academy.
Anything else you would like to share, Ed?
It’s a great day to buy a car.
What do you like to do in your spare time, Ed?
I like to golf, though I don’t play very well. I also like to go camping in my RV and spend time with my family.
What was your first job growing up and what did you learn from it, Ed?
I was a dishwasher at a Mexican restaurant in Tulare. I learned what hard work was and about saving money. I wanted to buy my first car. It took me about six months to save enough to buy a 1976 Buick Regal.