Carrie Rengers

Walser Automotive Group sales and employees increase

Sales are up at Walser Automotive Group, and so are the number of employees.
Sales are up at Walser Automotive Group, and so are the number of employees. The Wichita Eagle

Walser Automotive Group is gaining some traction in the Wichita market, a spokesman for the Minnesota-based company says.

“Sales are up,” Doug Sprinthall says. “It’s really quite good on all fronts.”

In April, Have You Heard? reported that the company laid off a dozen employees since buying the Luxury Collection in September.

In July and August, Walser hired 38 people. The layoffs and hirings have been a mix of sales and service positions.

Sales still aren’t as strong as the company thought they’d be, but Sprinthall says used car sales have quadrupled since the purchase, and new car sales are close to double.

He says the company initially had unrealistic expectations of taking a commanding lead of sales in the market.

“It didn’t really work out that way,” Sprinthall says. “We had more realistic expectations when we reassessed in the wintertime.”

It’s common for car dealers to be “incredibly impatient,” he says.

Sprinthall says it’s also not unusual to have a lot of staffing changes when a company makes a big cultural change, as Walser did by instituting its model of not negotiating on the price of its cars but having what it says are set low prices. Sprinthall says some employees chose to leave after the change.

“This typically happens, especially when there’s a big paradigm shift to one price.”

He says sales were helped by moving all of the company’s brands to its newer facilities near 13th and Greenwich from where they were at the former Luxury Collection dealership at Kellogg and Greenwich, which is being demolished for road work.

“It was just such a terrible customer experience down there.”

Everything is now all in one place – Acura, Audi, BMW, Jaguar, Land Rover, Lexus, Mini, Porsche and Mercedes-Benz brands – although the new Acura dealership won’t be ready until spring, and the Porsche dealership won’t be finished until summer.

Mini will have a grand opening for its new building on Oct. 7. BMW celebrated its grand opening a few weeks ago.

Sprinthall says customer satisfaction surveys have been especially encouraging.

“That’s really one of the first things we look at as a sign of health,” he says. “Especially in a small community like Wichita, the word’s going to get around.”

Carrie Rengers: 316-268-6340, @CarrieRengers