Martin Chevrolet is a family and community-focused Chevy dealership that I’m proud to announce as our newest iDriveSoCal partner.
One of the many things I love about Martin Chevy is this; in the store’s 50-plus years of existence, there have been all of two owners! That represents serious stability while serving the iconic Chevy brand to car buyers in both Los Angeles and Orange Counties – literally for decades.
And yet, Martin Chevrolet has remained innovative even while standing, sentinel-like, on Hawthorne Boulevard in the South Bay for generations. So, how does a car dealer with so much history, selling a brand with even more history keep ahead of the evolving automotive industry? In my opinion, it starts with refreshingly brutal honesty. And I love it. I’ll bet you will too.
Just listen to this no-holds-barred podcast I recorded with General Manager, Lewis Cook. Once you get his take on the car buying process, Martin Chevrolet will become your family’s SoCal Chevy Store too.
April 3, 2019
Open Honesty About Car Buying @ Martin Chevrolet
Lewis Cook: Everybody hates the process.
It’s fine. Say it. It’s what we deal with every day.
We’ve built this stigma in the industry that just the process sucks, right?
Me personally, I think, and I relay to my staff, I mean that’s the thing that we need to change as a dealer.
“Everybody hates the process… We’ve built this stigma in the industry that just the process sucks…”
It’s not about selling the car, it’s about servicing the customer.
About taking care of the customer’s needs and just being here for them.
Tom Smith: Welcome to iDriveSoCal, the podcast all about mobility from the automotive capital of the United States, Southern California.
Tom Smith here and I’m very excited to be sitting with Lewis Cook here at Martin Chevrolet in the Los Angeles suburb of Torrance, California. Lewis and Martin Chevrolet are iDriveSoCal’s… Is it are or is? I’m not sure.
Tom: Are, thank you. Are iDriveSoCal’s-
Lewis: It was quite the intro. Quite the intro.
Tom: Our newest dealer partner. We’re going to be pumping out all kinds of great content about all things Chevy and Lewis, thank you so much for coming on board. Thank you for joining me and it’s a pleasure to have you guys.
Lewis: Yeah, no, it’s my pleasure to be here. Thanks for making me do it. I think it was what, six months of beating down my door to get me to actually respond and now we got taking pictures, hi Ian.
Your Family SoCal Chevy Dealer – Martin Chevrolet
But no, I’m glad to be here. It’s fun. It’s exciting. I haven’t had headphones on since … I can’t remember the last time I had … This is cool.
Tom: Since the AV class in junior high?
Lewis: Yeah, maybe. I was in a helicopter once and I got to wear headphones, but that’s about it.
Tom: I’m just petrified of heights. I’ve never been in one. I don’t think I will.
Lewis: Me Too. I never will do it again. Anyway…
Tom: So, at any rate, obviously we like to keep it light on iDriveSoCal.
Lewis: If you don’t, you got the wrong guy.
Tom: Picked up on that for sure. But thanks for coming on board.
With this first introductory podcast, we really like to talk from the very beginning without going into too much detail, but the store here, Martin Chevrolet, has been on Hawthorne Boulevard since I think you said the 60’s?
Tom: 67′ alright. So it’s even older than me!
Lewis: Yeah, it was pretty amazing.
Tom: It’s a good thing. You’ve been here as part of the store for a little bit over a year, I believe, correct?
Tom: It sounds like you’re growing roots here at Martin Chevrolet in the Torrance area.
Lewis: Trying. I moved the family down here, so I guess that’s as rooted as you’re going to get. But I’m definitely committed.
Family Focus @ Martin Chevrolet
It’s a great town, it’s a great store. And it’s been here for a while. Very family orientated. We’ve got a few of the Giacomin’s in the store working it. So Joe’s the owner. It’s good going. I’m enjoying it.
Tom: Technically the name is Joe Giacomin’s Martin Chevrolet.
Lewis: Yeah, Joe Giacomin’s Martin Chevrolet.
Tom: Then a couple of his sons actually work here at the store?
Lewis: Three to be exact.
Tom: Okay. Three?
Tom: That’s more than a couple.
Tom: That’s a few. So, family-owned and operated business, very involved in the community.
Lewis: Extremely involved in the community.
Tom: I know you guys are part of the various local fire departments and police departments and whatnot.
Martin Chevrolet’s Community Involvement
Lewis: Boy, you gotta be. Just kidding. I drive around this town man, I’ve got to have a get out of jail free card.
No, I’m joking. One of the guys that works here, Kevin, is a retired sheriff from Torrance and we… Joe and myself have always been fans of the police and the sheriff around here.
Joe especially likes to support them and we just did a golf tournament last week. That’s why my face is so red and I’m peeling. I tried to put a little lotion on before.
“Joe and I have always been fans of the police and the sheriff… we just did a golf tournament last week… We got another golf tournament coming up for the Boys and Girls club here real soon.”
Tom: I did notice. You got the little raccoon stripe on the side from the sunglasses.
Lewis: Yeah, I should wear my glasses today so you can’t see the raccoon stripes. But yeah, we just did a golf tournament for them and it was an amazing day.
We got another golf tournament coming up for the Boys and Girls club here real soon.
He’s a big part of Torrance Memorial, the hospital out here. Which is good ’cause if I ever get sick then, you know.
Technology and Car Buying
Tom: Part of the reason I started iDriveSoCal is because of my love of cars and the tech and innovation in cars these days.
I mean these things are rolling computers and the tech that’s going into cars is awesome. I love that.
But some of the tech on the outside of the automotive business, such as this idea of a vending machine.
Lewis: Carvana. Yeah.
Tom: Yeah. Getting your car from a vending machine or something like that. I mean, it just doesn’t compute for me.
Another thing we were talking about just now was going and buying your car. This is the second largest purchase you make next to your home. Most of us. Unless you buy a luxury yacht of some sort.
“What if the car shows up and it smells bad? The fundamental car dealership process needs to be touch and feel, for sure.”
Second largest purchase of your life. So I want to go look, touch, feel, smell, test drive.
Lewis: Yeah. You couldn’t have said it any better.
It is the second largest purchase people make and I can’t believe there’s so much buzz about automating it and deliveries and whatnot.
At the end of the day, I think it comes back to just the basics of getting in something that you like and that feels good and that you’re going to be comfortable with, right?
What if the car shows up and it smells bad? The fundamental car dealership process needs to be touch and feel, for sure.
We All Love Getting a New Car! But…
Tom: And now that’s another thing that I wanted to touch on, is the car dealer process.
With iDriveSoCal, we partner with innovative dealers, forward-thinking dealers and I’m very proud to be working with you and Martin Chevrolet. That being said, the car buying process has been…
Well everybody loves to get a new car. The process can be-
Lewis: Everybody hates the process.
Lewis: It’s fine. Say it. It’s what we deal with every day.
We’ve built this stigma in the industry that just the process sucks, right?
Me personally, I think, and I relay to my staff, I mean that’s the thing that we need to change as a dealer and as salespeople and that customer relationship.
It needs to be more hands-on, I guess.
“Everybody hates the process. It’s fine. Say it. It’s what we deal with every day.”
Tom: You have your TV commercials or radio commercials or your YouTube commercials or fill in the blank and that’s easy to say. It’s easy to say, “Hey, we’re different. We’re family-owned and operated and whatever else.”
But how do you actually… and we didn’t talk about this off mic before I’m throwing it at you.
How do you actually execute that on a day-to-day basis with your staff and make sure that your customer, when they come in, it’s not that experience that nobody wants? It’s the experience that everybody does.
If the joy of getting a new car, for me personally and I think everybody else, was as joyful as the process, I mean-
Lewis: You’d be broke?
Tom: Yeah, it’s true.
Martin Chevrolet & The Car Buying Process
Lewis: Well, I think it comes down to just realizing that that’s the case. You show up to work every day and it’s the same building, it’s the same desk, it’s the same computer.
It just becomes monotonous. You just start to go through the motions. But the more that I try to relay to my sales guys.
“The more that we don’t go through the motions and realize that this is the first time a customer has been in the showroom for probably two to three years…”
The more that we don’t go through the motions and realize that this is the first time a customer has been in the showroom for probably two to three years or whatever the case may be.
Whether they’re leasing or purchasing, everything like that and how long that cycle is.
But ultimately, our job is to make it a good experience. Right?
And we do have that… we got a little wall to climb because people come in with this wall that’s already up because now, they’re going to a car dealership and the… Oh my God.
Tom: Yeah, for sure.
Lewis: And what are you going to sell me now? And we talked about this price and now it’s…
The fear of the price getting raised or all the products that we may put on the car that’s not…
“We have nothing to hide at the end of the day. And the general population thinks that we do. Let me tell you. There’s a lot of car dealerships out there that may have…”
There’s so much behind it and I think the communication first of all. Just the interaction with the customer and just being upfront and forthright and honest.
We have nothing to hide at the end of the day. And the general population thinks that we do. Let me tell you. There’s a lot of car dealerships out there that may have, right?
Lewis: That’s how we got here. So, changing that perception is important, especially when the customer’s here.
Martin Chevy – The Difference
So how do you do it? I don’t have a specific answer for you.
But, just knowing that when a customer comes in here, they don’t do this all the time like we do and to treat them like that really.
I mean, I think it’s an awareness more than anything.
“…just knowing that when a customer comes in here, they don’t do this all the time like we do and to treat them like that really… I think it’s an awareness more than anything.”
Tom: Yeah. Well, again, we didn’t talk about that before we fired up the mics and it’s interesting…
I mean, I guess it’s part of the daily thing that you have to deal with as a leader of a dealership that’s in the community, that’s selling a lot of cars. I mean, it’s interesting.
There’s no right or wrong answer. But thanks for covering that with me.
Lewis: It’s definitely a dynamic that we have to be aware of and that we have to cover. You know?
Lewis: It’s there. It’s one of the biggest challenges that we face, really.
Tom: You’ve been in the business for a couple of decades? No.
Tom: Yeah? I think I’m older than you.
Lewis: A couple of decades plus some is true. Not plus decades, plus years. But yeah. 20 plus, we’ll just leave it at that. I like to keep my-
Tom: I’m not going to cut you open and count the rings or anything, but-
Lewis: Yeah, but I probably should, let’s just say that.
Dealing with Too Much Information
Tom: I do. But where I was going with that is, you’ve seen a lot of change.
Tom: Just big picture. What do you think has changed that’s good?
What do you think that’s changed that will continue to be good moving forward? Just kind of a global perspective.
Lewis: The business is harder and easier at the same time.
I mean, when I was selling cars, we won’t talk about when that exactly was, but I think I was wearing a beeper, right?
Tom: Sure, sure.
Lewis: So, I mean, that just takes you back and I think it’s the technology, right?
It’s this mass portal where everybody can get every bit of information that they want to, right?
“The more information the customer has, the easier it is for us. But that can get convoluted sometimes because there’s just so much of it.”
Lewis: And that never used to be that. People would come on the lot, but back then it was, “Let’s get the customer on the lot.” Now it’s, “Let’s get the customer on the website.”
And that’s our new platform, really. So it’s good and it’s bad. The more information the customer has, the easier it is for us.
But that can get convoluted sometimes because there’s just so much of it.
Your Car Buying Knowledge is Respected @ Martin Chevrolet
Tom: Yeah. Well, I think me as a buyer. I mean, I do iDriveSoCal and I work with great car dealer partners, such as yourself.
But, at the same time, I mean, I’m still a buyer every three years my lease is up, you know?
Tom: Even with me, I mean-
Lewis: I am too. I have two girls. They’re both driving.
Tom: I mean, you can have…
There’s an analysis paralysis sometimes and so much information and it’s like, “Okay, at some point …”
And me personally, I’ve trained myself like, “Look, I’m going to go with my gut and I’m going to let the inner child have some fun.”
Tom: Unfortunately, I have a budget that I have to deal with.
“…for instance… The Bolt customer is very educated. That whole electric vehicle thing.”
Lewis: That’s amazing. Never heard that one before.
Tom: But even so, as you say, there’s so much information.
And what I hear from a lot of partners is that, and me as a consumer, I can come into the dealership or the dealership’s website.
And literally have, oftentimes more information than the person that I’m talking with about the car.
Lewis: That’s 90% of it, I would think, honestly. I mean, for instance, our Bolt.
Focus on What You Need from the Car
The Bolt customer is very educated. That whole electric vehicle thing. They come in here and they know more than my sales guys do and it’s actually pretty sad.
But they do and it’s just one of those things, right? Because there is so much information out there.
Tom: How do you instruct your team to handle that?
“Sometimes as we get wrapped up in this price, right? But if you’re searching for that great price and you find it on that leader car and you get here, it may be yellow. It may be super basic, it may not fit your needs.”
Lewis: I’m a back to the basics guy. I love dialogue and conversation and I’m all about the touch and the feel.
I mean you can have as much information as you want, right? Usually, the information is priced based and “What are the dealer pay? What am I going to pay? What did the last guy pay?”
That’s all fine, but what about the car? I just try to get them to get back to what the car’s offer. What the specific needs are for the customer.
Sometimes as we get wrapped up in this price, right? But if you’re searching for that great price and you find it on that leader car and you get here, it may be yellow. It may be super basic, it may not fit your needs.
So, I just think that, that philosophy of going back to, what is it that we’re looking for and what makes me comfortable.
At Martin Chevrolet – Price is the Easy Part
Then we’ll work out the price from there really. To us, to me anyway, the price is the easy part.
It’s really basic. But is a customer going to enjoy that experience for the next three years?
“…that philosophy of going back to, what is it that we’re looking for and what makes me comfortable. Then we’ll work out the price from there really. To us, to me anyway, the price is the easy part.”
Or, are they diluting it because they found the best price and that’s what they’re going for because that’s what this whole stigma is, is let’s just get the best price.
Well, it gets in the way sometimes. So, we’ll try to get these guys back to, here’s what the car has to offer.
Here’s what you’re getting. The car that is a little bit more expensive has this, these features probably fit you better. Let’s talk about that.
Tom: I can imagine how this works out because you do all the research.
You find, “Okay, I’m going to get it at this price. It’s going to be this monthly, whatever.”
And then there’s an eight or $10 differential, but it’s that feature that without it, I’m going to be losing my mind for the next three years in traffic. Come on.
Lewis: It’s true and it happens all the time.
In this day and age, what happens then too, is that the customer will come in here and be like, “Okay, well this new feature, I got to have it, but now I’ve got to go research the price again.” It’s like, “Okay.”
Why Martin Chevrolet?
Tom: Which brings me back to, “Hey, there’s 40, 50 Chevrolet dealers in Southern California.”
Lewis: Too many.
Tom: When you go all the way down to San Diego-
Lewis: No, in reality, there are. There’s a lot.
Tom: And you’re all selling the same thing.
“It’s not about selling the car, it’s about servicing the customer. That’s what it’s about. And it’s about taking care of the customer’s needs and just being here for them.”
Lewis: We are.
Tom: I can tell ‘why here’ just by talking with you as we have, as you point out for a number of months. But we have the podcast listeners ear right now.
Lewis: Well, I mean, I guess I gotta give you a little backstory for that.
So, I’ve been in the business for a while and I keep trying to avoid [crosstalk] and I worked for, I won’t say the name of it, but a pretty big conglomerate before this.
Corporate, very corporate, very by the book, very rule orientated and things just happened. There was nothing really behind it, I guess if that makes any sense?
Coming here, the decision to move my family far, in a position we were very comfortable in, to increase my expenses and living because this is an amazing area, right?
Joe Giacomin’s Martin Chevrolet
Tom: South Bay.
Lewis: South Bay and it’s not cheap, but the core reason I did that is the man behind the curtain, Joe, is amazing.
He’s just a caring person and its family owned and we are a community dealer and we care. I mean, he cares. I care. Right?
“He’s [Joe Giacomin] just a caring person and its family owned and we are a community dealer and we care.”
We really share that same passion, I guess and the staff here was amazing. I talked to everybody, they all care.
So, I think it just comes down to if you want to legit experience. You don’t want the hassle with that car sales guy stigma.
I think if you don’t want all that and you want just a good family experience and just a community of process, this is the place to come.
It’s not about selling the car, it’s about servicing the customer. So, if you live in Torrance or the OC or South Bay or whatever, and you’re buying a Chevy from us, you got to come back and you got to see these guys all the time.
That’s what it’s about. And it’s about taking care of the customer’s needs and just being here for them.
My cell phone numbers all over the website, Google reviews, Yelp reviews, people can get a hold of me directly. It’s pretty rare, really, in a car dealership.
So, I just think it’s just back to that basic caring, family-oriented place, really.
Tom: Easy to say, difficult to execute. But I’ve been here a number of times and I walk into a lot of different stores and you got my buy-in. I’m proud to be working with you.
You Can Feel the Difference @ Martin Chevrolet
Lewis: Yeah. It’s a good vibe, right?
Lewis: And we try. I try to spearhead that and keep everything fresh and lively, but you know.
Tom: The corporate stores that you were talking about, right? Not all are bad, but I’ve literally seen somewhere it’s like, the management’s different every six months.
“…it’s all about the people, basically is what it comes down to. The people you surround yourself with, the people that you have working for you, the people that you work for.”
Lewis: Well, it is because it’s corporate, right? You don’t do something right and you’re done. It’s over.
There is not a handpicked philosophy of hiring people and they’re not hiring people for who they are or what they think are their morals.
They’re hiring people based on a resume and what they’ve done in the past, and they may have been at five or six different dealers. You don’t know what their core beliefs are and that kind of stuff.
I don’t hire just anybody. I mean, you have to care, right? So that’s what happens when you get in these big corporate worlds.
I’ll tell you, go back to, it’s all about the people, basically is what it comes down to. The people you surround yourself with, the people that you have working for you, the people that you work for.
If that’s not a good environment, it’s not going to be conducive to doing any kind of business.
Martin Chevrolet & iDriveSoCal Partnership
Tom: Mr. Lewis Cook, Martin Chevrolet. Thank you again so much for coming on board with iDriveSoCal.
Lewis: That’s it? We’re done?
Tom: I’m thrilled to be working with you…
***I previously joked w/ Lewis that we had 54-hours of disk space for recording!***
Lewis: 54 hours.
Tom: Well now we only have recording time left 52 hours four minutes and three seconds.
Lewis: Come on man, let’s go. Get so much more.
Tom: I’m going to leave a lot of this in.
Lewis: You should, man. No, thanks for having me. Thanks for being a partner.
I hope you know we can reach out and kind of spread the word a little bit about who we are and what we’re about and people would take that into consideration when they’re looking for their [your] next Chevy.
Tom: Absolutely. Absolutely. We’re going to make sure that. Unless there’s anything else, we’re going to wrap this one up but we got-
Martin Chevrolet on Hawthorne Bouldevard
Lewis: Are we going to clap. Can I clap?
Tom: You can clap. So, I don’t know if we’re going to leave this in or not.
But, Mr. And Mrs. Podcast listener, I had Lewis laughing a bit because we’re running video on this as well as doing the podcast and in order to sync up the audio and the video, we clap at the beginning of the recording.
Lewis: Oh, just the beginning?
Tom: Yeah, but I mean, hey for fun, you can clap at the end if you want.
Lewis: Okay. I’m going to do it. Tell me when.
Tom: Okay, well let me do my outro first and then you can do the clap.
Lewis: Okay, is it going to be as good as the intro? Because that’s a big, tall order right there. That was something else. You got that radio announcer voice and everything. That’s great.
Tom: Well, I run this thing on a very thin budget. We’re working on very small margin, so I have to-
“…is it going to be as good as the intro? Because that’s a big, tall order right there. That was something else. You got that radio announcer voice and everything.”
Lewis: Is it ’cause I don’t pay enough?
Tom: Yeah, exactly. Exactly.
Lewis: Savings for the customers, folks.
Tom: Passing the savings from the podcasting all the way down to-
Lewis: For sure, bigger discounts, that pay Tom less. That’s my philosophy.
Tom: Alright, Lewis, thanks again. Martin Chevrolet here at Torrance, California, right on Hawthorne Boulevard. Love these guys.
Looking forward to lots more fun podcasts and educational information on all things Chevy.
For iDriveSoCal, I am Tom Smith. Thank you so much, as always, for tuning in.
Lewis: See ya. I’m gonna clap now.
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