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By Mike Baker
If you build it, they will come – that is the mantra that has served Danny Brackett, President of Brackett Auto Group, well in recent years, particularly when it comes to the substantial renovation and expansion project at Orangeville Chrysler Dodge Jeep Ram Fiat.
Since purchasing the local dealership back in 2015, Mr. Brackett has overseen a drastic transformation of the site. A brand new 16-car showroom was unveiled in 2018, while, just last month, the facility celebrated the opening of a state-of-the-art drive-thru service centre, and boutique area to showcase up to six unique vehicles at a time. Now boasting a footprint of around 33,000 sq. ft., encompassing its showroom, three-lane, six-bay drive-thru service centre and 18-bay garage, Orangeville Chrysler is now the largest car dealership in the community.
Sitting down with the Citizen this week, Mr. Brackett reflects on his five-year “journey” at the helm of Orangeville Chrysler, touching on the many “exciting things” this expansion brings to the dealership.
“When we took over Orangeville Chrysler, we knew the dealership needed to be rebuilt,” Mr. Brackett said. “Right away, we decided we wanted to work with all local people to complete this project. Mark Hicks, a well-known Orangeville-based architect completed all the design work and rendering for the project, while Robert Preston Construction, another local firm, took care of the build. I really couldn't have asked for a better experience throughout – we made for a tremendous team.”
He added, “I've always had a vision for what I thought this place could be, and, sitting here today, I think I can safely say it's mission accomplished, 100 percent. These guys did a great job bringing my vision to life. This new facility will enable us to expand our business and really showcase some of our most popular brands.”
With that in mind, the crown jewel of the facility is, without question, its extensive showroom and boutique area. With up to 21 vehicles packed inside at any one time, featuring such brands as Jeep and Ram, the new showroom has allowed the staff at Orangeville Chrysler to really take business to the next level over the past 18 months.
Inside that main hub, the dealership boasts 14 sales offices, and is “completely transparent” in Mr. Brackett's words. By that he means the design team charged with bringing his vision to life went to painstaking lengths to ensure most of the facility is fitted with glass panels, rather than drywall, creating a more open and positive environment for both staff and customers.
That was a key feature of the rebuild, Danny explains.
“We really wanted to make this showroom standout, and the best way to do that, in my opinion, is to bring as much natural light as possible into the building,” he said. “Once you step inside Orangeville Chrysler, you have full transparency everywhere you go. We have a visually pleasing showroom and service area now that people are excited to check out. That was what I wanted to do when I launched this rebuild – make this place as inviting as possible, and ensure people are comfortable, and excited, the minute they step through our doors.”
While the improved aesthetics have certainly contributed to that improved level of customer satisfaction, another key component is the way staff restructured the showroom – setting up permanent, dedicated spaces for core brands, such as Jeep and Ram. Mr. Brackett spoke extensively of those two brands in particular, especially Jeep, which is celebrating its 80th anniversary this year.
“Jeep, in my opinion, is the best brand in the automotive industry. And what I mean by that, is that it's been around for so long, has got so much depth, and is incredibly popular worldwide. The retention rate for customers is unbelievable – once someone buys a Jeep product, they more than likely aren't going anywhere else again. Jeep is almost like a lifestyle to some people,” Mr. Brackett said.
The most impressive thing about Jeep, in Mr. Brackett's mind, is the extensive lineup of vehicles in its repertoire. Whether it's a Renegade, Wrangler, Compass, Cherokee, Grand Cherokee or the recently reimagined Grand Wagoneer, there is “something in every segment” for local residents to choose from, Danny explains.
Ram has been a major player in the trucking industry for a long time now, but has really come to the fore over the past couple of years. The Ram 1500 was named 2019 Truck of the Year by automotive magazine MotorTrend, with the Ram Heavy Duty taking home the title in 2020. With a surging popularity over the past couple of years, Mr. Brackett estimates Ram truck sales at Orangeville Chrysler have more than tripled since 2015.
One of the major reasons for that, he says, is because the local dealership has started to focus on the commercial truck industry – not just in terms of selling the vehicles, but by servicing them too. Inside that massive 18-bay garage is a heavy-duty truck hoist, which could lift something as heavy as a firetruck up into the air, allowing mechanics to see underneath the vehicle and carry out repairs. The facility also offers detailing, with dedicated bays at the rear of the building large enough to accommodate commercial trucks.
It's through the “proper promotion” of these popular brands that Orangeville Chrysler has grown into the hugely successful dealership it is today.
“I think it's pretty safe to say that I have never seen a dealership, in my 33 years in the industry, grow at the pace this place has grown,” Mr. Brackett said. “I think it has grown at this pace for a bunch of reasons, but one of the main ones is that these brands, like Chrysler, like Jeep, like Ram, like Dodge and like Fiat didn't have the attention they deserved previously. Our community wanted, and needed a strong Jeep and Ram retailer in town. It sort of like, once we built it, the people came out.”
He added, “That's why the showroom expansion was such a huge thing. It allowed us to display a full buffet of vehicles in that space, and really showcase our Ram and Jeep products. They're fabulous vehicles.”
In the end, the numbers speak for themselves. Whether its car sales, service appointments or detailing arrangements, business at Orangeville Chrysler has increased substantially since 2015.
“In terms of percentages, our business has almost quadrupled over the past five years,” Mr. Brackett said.
The main facet of Mr. Brackett's business is to provide the best service and vehicles to its customers. While Orangeville Chrysler has always been a major player in the community when it comes to selling cars, the new drive-thru service station puts the local dealership on the map when it comes to servicing, detailing and repairing your vehicle too.
“The thought process behind opening this new service centre is to make things as convenient as possible for our customers. Now, whenever someone drives onto the lot, they can come right inside, outside of the elements, and immediately they're in a nice environment where they can meet with a service adviser and discuss their options,” Mr. Brackett said. “Customers will now have the ability to do a full walkthrough with an adviser and have a proper consultation to discuss the full scope of work that needs doing. This just adds to the full range of services we already offered at Orangeville Chrysler.”
The expansion has added considerable employment to the local community. Since 2015, Orangeville Chrysler has more than doubled its workforce, with 55 employees as of press time. The dealership is actively searching for a new technician, but are also interested in discussing other potential career paths with individuals interested in working in the automotive industry. Anyone with an interest in pursuing a career with Orangeville Chrysler is encouraged to send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
In the meantime, while the major work at the local dealership is on the home stretch, there are a few small jobs Mr. Brackett wants to wrap-up before he considers the project finished. There is still some panelling that needs to be installed on the outside wall of the building, while Mr. Brackett hopes to pave a large section of the gravel lot on the east side of his building before winter sets in.
Looking back on an incredible five years of growth, Mr. Brackett says none of it would have been possible without the support of both his team members and the community.
“When you look back at what we were five years ago, and compare it to today, it's incredible. We've come a long way, and we have to thank our team, who have worked incredibly hard to push our brands in this area, and we have to thank the local community for supporting Orangeville Chrysler Dodge Jeep Ram Fiat and really believing in us,” Mr. Brackett said. “This project has been a win, win, win for all involved.”
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