Neessen Automotive Group
All in the Family
Business View Magazine interviews family representatives of Neessen Automotive Group for our focus on top Auto Dealerships in the U.S.
Phillip E. Neessen, President of Neessen Automotive Group, is a proud second generation Chevy dealer. “My dad became a Chevrolet dealer in El Paso, Texas in 1960,” Neessen recounts. “In 1979, I was awarded the new Chevrolet point in Corpus Christi.” Eleven years later, Neessen bought the Kingsville operation and sold the Corpus Christi store. He explains, “We’ve been in Kingsville now for 32 years, but I’ve been in the Corpus Christi area for 42 years.”
Neessen Automotive has found great success through the consistent culture they have established over the past four decades. The family has also grown over time as the third generation is now serving alongside Phillip Neessen. His son Payne Neessen is a partner and his daughter Porter Neessen Devries is the Director of Marketing & Administrative Activities. It has always been a family business for them.
But being a member of the Neessen family is not determined solely by blood relation. Phillip, Payne, and Porter are quick to highlight the importance of their employees and customers – especially in an ever changing business climate.
The Neessen Automotive Group owns three dealerships in the Kingsville area. Their flagship dealership carries Chevy, Buick, and GMC. They also offer Chrysler, Dodge, Jeep and Ram at another dealership, and they launched a Polaris franchise two years ago that has been well received in the community. There is only one other dealership in town, so unless you’re driving a new vehicle that starts with an F and ends with an O-R-D, chances are you got it from Neessen.
That being said, it definitely isn’t as easy to get a new car today as it was a few years back. As a direct result of the COVID pandemic that hit in early 2020, supply chains got backed up and manufacturing stalled. “I never thought in my lifetime that I would see something like this happen,” Phillip confesses. “Car dealers are a pretty independent bunch of people. We had to adapt. We used to stock 250 to 300 new cars at the Chevrolet store. On any given day, today, we have 16 to 20 cars in stock.”
That doesn’t mean you can’t buy a new car. It just means you are ordering it before it arrives on the lot. New cars don’t sit around waiting for their forever homes anymore. Porter Neessen Devries, Director of Marketing & Administrative Activities, explains, “Customers now place their orders ahead of time. We currently have 82 sold orders. When vehicles show up on the trailer, customers come in to pick up their cars and go.” Phillip adds, “We look for transports every day now. When the transport gets here, we have a great day. If it doesn’t show up, we have a slow day.”
While the new car business is different today than it was a few years ago, the used car business is booming for Neessen Automotive. There are currently 221 pre-owned vehicles available on neesenautomotive.com and they are constantly adding vehicles they believe will meet the needs of their customers. Payne Neessen acknowledges, “The pre-owned vehicle market works in much the same way as before COVID. We are able to source enough of them through trade-ins and auctions.”
While they are acquiring most of their used cars the way they used to, Porter explains that they are more aggressively exploring CarGurus and Autotrader. She notes, “We are making sure that our used cars are fully on the market and are listed in extended reach areas because people are buying cars far away from where they live since they can’t find what they want nearby.”
While inventory shortages are common in many industries today, most businesses are also struggling to find skilled technicians. Neessen Automotive does not have that problem. Payne proudly states that their technicians earn some of the top compensation in the industry. “We retain them and keep them. It is essential to our business to have good techs working in all of our dealerships.”
Phillip laments that the part shortages have affected them more than the sales shortages have. “We still are selling cars,” he states, “but we’re having a very hard time being able to fix people’s cars.” When asked if he sees the light at the end of the tunnel on that one, Phillip quickly responds with an emphatic “no.” He elaborates, “They keep saying there is, but I do not see an end in sight in the immediate future. And when I say immediate, I unfortunately do not see this changing anytime in the next three years.”
While the long delays are frustrating to car owners waiting for parts to get their vehicles repaired, it is extremely frustrating for dealers, too. Car dealerships pride themselves on maintaining strong relationships with their customers. Porter admits that one of the hardest adaptations they have been forced to make during this shortage is how to explain to customers why they can or can’t fix their car. “Sometimes it feels like they don’t know what to believe. Retention wise, service is obviously hitting us really hard because we can’t fix their cars, so they are going to anyone who says they can find the parts to fix their car.”
“We are still doing well,” Porter states, “but we have seen a tick down in our service departments due to the part shortages and delays. That also carries over onto the sales side when someone wants to buy a specific car. They’re willing to drive across the country to find it if you don’t have it. Even if they’ve bought their last ten cars from us. We’re in the farming and ranching community. So if they need a truck, they need a truck. And they’re going to get it where they can get it.”
Clearly, Neessen Automotive want to be the ones to meet the needs of all of their customers, but that isn’t how the market works today. It is refreshing to hear Payne pipe in that they don’t blame the customer for it at all. At the end of the day, they value their customers like family and just want them to get what they need. The Neessen team is hopeful for the day when the delays are gone and parts and cars are available again. Even with all of the present uncertainties, they are proud of the fact that they have not lost any salespeople or technicians due to the shortages.
Neessen Automotive currently has 167 employees total working at their three dealerships combined. According to Phillip, “We don’t like to fire salesmen, we don’t like to lose technicians. A few have left on their own over the years, but in the long run almost all of them end up coming back. “Payne explains how service is a key to their success. “We’re very busy at all three stores and we know that service is our bread and butter. We believe in it. Today it sounds cliche to talk about taking care of your customers, but we do a really good job of taking care of our customers.”
“We have a ton of tenure,” Porter adds. “We have arguably the longest tenured employees of any I have ever seen in car dealerships. We find a lot of pride in the family connections we have here. Not only do we have multi-generational customers, but we also have multi-generational employees.” All three of them believe they offer a fun and rewarding place to work, but Phillip also stresses they also offer excellent compensation. “We believe they deserve the money.”
While the wages are enviable, Neessen Automotive employees receive full training, as well. In fact, at the Polaris store, all technicians are fully gold certified, even though dealerships are only required to have one certified technician.
After investing that much into their staff, and continuing to prioritize customer relationships, there is no doubt that Neessen Automotive will succeed for generations to come.
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AT A GLANCE
Neessen Automotive Group
What: Family owned and operated dealership group
Where: Based in Kingsville, Texas
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