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By Paul Lonardo
Stephen Aylward is the general manager of Toyota of Smithfield, a dealership at 550 George Washington Highway that you probably have seen and may have known as Colonial Toyota. What Aylward and the entire Toyota of Smithfield team would like everyone to know is that whatever your past experiences at this location have been, whether good, bad or indifferent, everything has changed., You’ll see a complete staff overhaul and a new business approach that is community-based and family-friendly. He also wants it to be clear that they are not part of the Colonial Auto Group in Massachusetts.
“We’re Rhode Island’s newest Toyota dealership,” Aylward says with pride. “It was formerly Colonial Toyota, but we have a new vision, new management, and a new staff, with almost 100% turnover in customer-facing employees since I took over the dealership last February.”
Aylward came over from Lexus, as did the service manager. The general sales manager and several sales consultants came from the highline industry as well. This was intentional, with their customers in mind. They want to be able to give their customers an experience like no other.
“Everything is new here. So, I’m trying to surround the dealership with people that are customer-focused to give customers the experience they desire and deserve. The bottom line is we are looking to keep Smithfield business in Smithfield, and Rhode Island business in Rhode Island.”
There are seven Toyota dealers in the state or right over the line, and a good number of zip codes fall in the Toyota of Smithfield market region. According to Aylward this translates to about 10,000 vehicles that are seven years old or newer on the road. Aylward and his team are anxious to increase not only new vehicle sales and lease volume, but also to attract resale customers and to grow their service business.
“We don’t give prices that aren’t real,” Aylward says, “or quote prices for discounts that customers don’t qualify for. We don’t strong-arm people into having to finance like some dealerships do. And we have an updated café with WiFi where our customers can sit and have a snack and something to drink.”
While Aylward has been working to change the culture of the dealership from top to bottom for nearly a year, the name just changed in November and he plans to showcase all the new changes and incentives Toyota of Smithfield has to offer.
“We’re the only dealership in Rhode Island that is offering three years or 36,000 miles worth of maintenance at no cost to the customer when they buy a new vehicle from us,” he says. “Every other dealership in the state provides Toyota Care no-cost maintenance, which is a two-year 25,000-mile plan.”
There are lots of great things planned for the future, and Aylward is excited about 2018 and beyond, confident that the team he assembled can double their sales. The size of the dealership alone is not what is important; it’s the satisfaction of the customers and the return business. Aylward stresses that it is a fallacy that large dealerships offer better pricing. He says all Toyota dealerships buy their cars from the same place, for the same price, regardless of the volume.
“Toyota is the number-one car company in the world,” Aylward says. “They sell more cars than anyone, and they do not have stair-step programs. They’re ahead of the curve, always. And even if the economy goes soft, I think Toyota of Smithfield will win because all we have to do is take care of our own backyard. We just need to take care of our customers, convince some in North Smithfield that they don’t have to drive to a different dealer further away to get the Toyota they want. And they really don’t want to. They’d love to buy a car in their backyard. They want to be treated properly, they want to be treated fairly, and they don’t want any games played. And if we can do that, get a chance to show Toyota customers what we can do for them, we can win their business.”
The Toyota of Smithfield management would like everyone to be on the lookout for information about the dealership’s grand opening event in the spring. There will be a ribbon-cutting, food, giveaways and promotions, plus full community involvement, with the fire and police departments on scene doing complimentary seatbelt safety checks. So be sure to keep an eye out for that announcement in the coming months.
For more information call 401-723-0972 or visit www.toyotaofsmithfield.com