A Whole New Honda
After five years of planning and 18 months of construction, the dust has settled on Honda of Ocala’s renovations. The new facility now standing at the 30-year-old dealership offers a new way of doing business. Car shopping in Ocala just got a whole lot nicer.
The change is apparent from the moment guests walk through the entrance. For those who have been disappointed with visits to dealerships in the past, Honda of Ocala has remodeled not only its facility but the car-buying experience itself.
A smiling receptionist greets everyone warmly, ready to help when needed. The redesigned interior is open, welcoming, and transparent, literally and figuratively. Glass walls allow customers to see everything going on between salespeople, the manager, and the finance office, and computers located throughout the dealership are available for guests to use any time.
“The car business has changed. It’s become a lot more transparent with the Internet,” explains Dealer Manager Tom Moore. “We think all that information is great. A well-informed customer is Honda of Ocala’s best friend.”
Past the display models parked inside, in the new, air-conditioned delivery center, a couple examines the car they’ve selected from the lot.
“It’s hard to pay attention when somebody’s going over your warranty or owner manual and you’re sweating,” Moore explains. “Plus, the halogen lights show any defects in the car. They can look the car over carefully and make sure everything’s perfect.”
Yes, the renewed Honda of Ocala is a far cry from what car owners have come to expect during a car-buying experience.
“We’re very positive about the future of Ocala and Marion County,” Moore continues. “It’s a special place in Florida. We invested this money to improve the customer service and to make it a facility where we would be able to provide top-notch mechanical service and also to make a really nice, comfortable atmosphere when they come in.”
Part of that new atmosphere includes the in-house café run by Corey Elkins, the former owner of The Flipside Café in town. When the economic downturn forced Elkins to close up shop, Honda of Ocala offered a new home for his culinary skills at the dealership. The young entrepreneur agreed, and The Pit Stop Café was born.
“Eight to three, Monday through Saturday,” says Elkins from behind the counter where two guests are seated and enjoying lunch. “I’m here at 7am. That’s when I start with the complimentary coffee and donuts. We are open to the public, too.”
Right around the corner from the café, a colorful playroom for kids features puzzles and toys as well as an Xbox for older children and several flat-screen, high-definition TVs. Meanwhile, adult guests wait for their vehicles to be serviced in a brand-new lounge, complete with computers, Wi-Fi access, and a large plasma TV.
The service aspect of the dealership falls under the leadership of Service Director Scott Westerkon. A 13-year employee, Westerkon makes it a point to remember every customer his team serves. In fact, when a car with a North Carolina license plate pulls up into one of the newly expanded service lanes, he knows immediately who the driver is.
“He’s down visiting,” Westerkon explains as he approaches the vehicle. “He’s been coming here for the last 10 years.”
Loyalty runs both ways at Honda of Ocala—from the customers who return for tune-ups and from the staff that provides the superior service. And mechanics don’t get more top-notch than Honda Certified Master Technician Mike Schooler. When he earned the prestigious master technician certification three years ago, Schooler was one of only two mechanics in the Southeast with the designation.
“There are about 400 tests you have to take,” Schooler says, standing next to an occupied car hoist. “Some of them are online; some are in the training center. To date, throughout my career, I’ve taken almost 1,400 tests.”
“Whenever other Honda dealerships have a difficult service problem,” Moore adds, “they send it to Mike.”
Once serviced, every vehicle heads to the on-site, state-of-the-art car wash for a thorough cleaning, topping off the superior service experience at Honda of Ocala.
Honda of Ocala’s team, Schooler stresses, is committed to honest, reliable care. It’s why, after 13 years, he’s still as eager as ever to come to work every day.
“I live in Williston, and I drive 30 miles to get here,” Schooler says. “I don’t mind it at all. I love it here.”
Want to know more?
Honda of Ocala
1800 SW College Road
Ocala, FL 34474