THE new owner of some of Leongatha’s most recognised car dealerships is on a mission to set a new benchmark in motoring in South Gippsland.
Warren Stewart, who has taken over the Knights and Westaway dealerships, said customers will be the biggest beneficiaries in the new ownership.
The changeover, which comes after almost 100 years of ownership in the Knights and Westaway family, has seen new names for each of the dealerships – Leongatha Toyota, Leongatha Ford, Leongatha Mitsubishi and Leongatha Honda.
Mr Stewart, who also bought Wonthaggi Toyota last year, said he was excited to build on the great existing reputation of the dealerships.
He will be calling on his impressive 12 years’ experience at Lexus head office, where he was the regional manager for Victoria, Tasmania, South Australia and Western Australia.
“Lexus, being a luxury brand, is always into global best practice and I’d like to roll out a lot of that stuff into these two dealerships,” Mr Stewart said.
“We’re in the early stages of doing that, and we think it will probably take us 12 months to get both dealerships fully operational to the way that we want to run them.
“We want to be a destination and dealership of choice for customers in the area, and the only way we can do that is by doing the best job possible.
“It really comes down to the one percenters.
“The one percenters are the difference between average dealerships and great dealerships.”
The business has already increased its staff by adding three new roles – a used car manager, a finance and insurance manager and an office administration manager.
“We’re very big on the customer experience,” Mr Stewart said.
“We want to have a structure in place across sales and service where our customers are happy, where they become advocates and help us with referrals.”
Part of Mr Stewart’s focus on the customer is to be part of the community.
He now lives in Inverloch and has even been playing in Inverloch Cricket Club’s A1 side.
“We’re big on community and we’re in this for the long-term, so we want to have a big involvement in the area,” he said.
“Country people are very much into their sports, which is great because I love my cricket and footy.
“I’m batting at number three for Inverloch at the moment.
“I haven’t made a whole lot of runs, but I’m due.”
Mr Stewart said one of the strengths that convinced him to buy the dealerships was that they have four of Australia’s leading brands.
“And in those brands are Australia’s best-selling cars, the Toyota Hilux and the Ford Ranger,” he said.
“There is a whole range of new models coming this year from Toyota, Mitsubishi and Ford, so it’s a really exciting time.”
Mr Stewart said people could also come to expect a far greater range of used cars at the Leongatha dealerships.
“We’re a big used car operation and through our networks we’ve got access to over 500 used cars at any given time,” he said.
“If we don’t have a car here for a customer, we can get it.”
Leongatha dealerships in new hands