Posts Tagged ‘Buerge Chrysler Jeep Dodge Ram’


Update: 8/7/2015: CurbedLA reports that CIM Group owns both properties and plans (you guessed it) a mixed-use complex on the Ford dealership block:

The plans, presented last night at the West LA Neighborhood Council’s Planning and Land Use Committee, call for a four-story project, with 157 units that include 16 low-income apartments. There will be nearly 45,000 square feet of retail, though committee members voiced worry that a big box retailer, like CityTarget, would move in and bring on a traffic apocalypse (lots of underground parking is planned). CIM reps said there are no plans for something like that, but the committee wants the retail spaces broken up into smaller shops, as well as more open space and wide sidewalks. There’s time for adjustments as the project, designed by Gene Fong & Associates, is in the very early stages.

I’m sure some equally craptastic development will be planned for the Chrysler block.

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Just two weeks ago when I drove by Buerge Chrysler-Dodge-Jeep-Ram in West Los Angeles on Santa Monica Blvd., the lot was full of cars. Fast forward to today, it’s a ghost town and fork lifts are hauling out service equipment.

All the inventory is gone from Buerge Chrysler-Jeep-Dodge-Ram in West LA

All the inventory is gone from Buerge Chrysler-Jeep-Dodge-Ram in West LA

Whatever valuable tooling existed in the service department was being carted out. Perhaps it had been sold or it was being repossessed by a bank or leasing company.

Whatever valuable tooling existed in the service department was being carted out. Perhaps it had been sold or it was being repossessed by a bank or leasing company.

What happened, I don’t know for sure, but I can speculate: Terrible customer service finally put the nail in the coffin.

The tiny showroom was a humbled design that was never updated. It could have been done, but the owners didn't invest much in the facilities.

The tiny showroom was a humbled design that was never updated. It could have been renovated, but the owners didn’t invest much in the facilities.

I’ve shopped at Buerge before and I’ve never  had a good experience at this dealer.  And I know it wasn’t just me.  Many of the Yelp reviews were brutal.

I remember my last visit to the showroom. There were no sales associates anywhere to be seen – not even a receptionist. And there were three other customers wandering around looking at the cars on the showroom floor, wondering if anyone was going to bother to talk to them.  When one sales guy showed up, we had to let  him know who was waiting the longest, like we were at the prepared foods counter at Gelson’s. Naturally, I knew more about the car than the salesman – not surprising – but this guy seemed particularly clueless.  It must have been a horrible, depressing place to work.

The lot was very small by modern standards, but there was no place to grow. The rear abuts residential property and the dealership already occupied the full city block. The original lots just weren't very deep.

The lot was very small by modern standards, but there was no place to grow. The rear abuts residential property and the dealership already occupied the full city block. The original lots just weren’t very deep.

After I purchased my 2012 Dodge Charger from another more responsive dealer, I took my car to Buerge for service as it is the closest dealer to me in West Hollywood and I can ride the MTA 4 or 704 to a stop one block form the dealership.

The service people never found the electronic gremlins that plagued my outside temperature gauge (constantly wrong) or why the climate control system didn’t properly sense the cabin temperature, but I was horrified by the customer “lounge” which hadn’t been updated since the building was built, probably back in the 1970s. The ceiling tiles were stained from ancient water leaks. The coffee “station” could have come out of an episode of The Office. The windowless room was truly soul-sucking.

I took these pictures about 2 years ago. Note the ancient TV.

I took these pictures about 2 years ago. Note the ancient TV. And check out that fantastic coffee station. No expense spared, right?

It's like they bought the seats at a surplus auction from a defunct Greyhound Bus station.

It’s like they bought the seats at a surplus auction from a defunct Greyhound Bus station.

 

It's hard to see, but there were water stains on the ceiling tiles.

It’s hard to see, but there were water stains on the ceiling tiles.

The dealership website is still online, but when you call the toll-free number, after the initial recorded voice, you’re connected to a fast busy signal. As the unceremonious notice on the door says, they are “Closed for Business as of 2/17/2014.”

Like the way the owners ran the business, the "closed" sign was a simple notice with no information or explanation.  Maybe they lost their lease? Maybe the real estate was too valuable for a poorly-performing business? Who knows?

Like the way the owners ran the business, the “closed” sign was a simple notice with no information or explanation. Maybe they lost their lease? Maybe the real estate was too valuable for a poorly-performing business? Who knows?

This is bad news for Chrysler as this leaves the company with no store in Metro Los Angeles — the same problem plagues Chevrolet. My choices are now Van Nuys, Glendale, Downtown LA, Inglewood or San Fernando. None of them are on a transit route and none are convenient.

There’s a huge market for Chrysler-group vehicles and factory service in Metro LA. Perhaps another dealer group will take up the franchise in Santa Monica or even Mid-Wilshire.  Jeep is a hot brand, as is Ram.  Just because Buerge finally tanked doesn’t mean a well-run group can’t fill the vacuum that now exists. Any takers?

Update: April 22, 2014

I received a flyer in the mail from the “All-New” Hooman Chrysler Dodge Jeep Ram of Los Angeles – NOT conveniently located Inglewood.  This is apparently the replacement for Buerge, but I wonder why I got a flyer for my minivan but not my Charger.  Odd.  However, I won’t be taking either my 2012 Dodge Charger or my 2011 Dodge Grand Caravan there for service.  It looks like I’ll stick with Crystal Chrysler Jeep Dodge Ram Fiat in Cathedral City.

Hooman Chrysler Jeep P1 Edit

Hooman Chrysler P2


For many years now, the domestic auto manufacturers have had a hard time in Metro Los Angeles. That corridor from Santa Monica to Silver Lake, along Santa Monica, Sunset and Wilshire Boulevards, was particularly underserved by the domestic brands, mostly due to lack of demand but also due to the high cost of real estate.

There are some notable holdouts: Santa Monica Ford, Buerge Ford and Buerge Chrysler-Jeep survived on the West Side, Vermont Ford in East Hollywood.  Martin Cadillac GMC  is still standing at Olympic and Bundy, but it’s looking tired.  There is a Chevrolet (and Buick, but I don’t believe it) dealer in Santa Monica; however, it is the smallest Chevrolet dealer I’ve ever seen anywhere.  It occupies a tiny corner of a small lot that that used to be a Chevy dealer but is now flagged as an Infiniti dealership. [More on this pathetic location in a future post.]

Dealerships on the R.I.P. list:  Beverly Hills Ford,  Hillcrest Cadillac – Beverly Hills, Albertson Chevrolet – Culver City, La Brea Chevrolet – Los Angeles, La Brea Chrysler-Jeep – Los Angeles, Lou Ehler’s Cadillac – Mid-Wilshire,  Los Feliz Ford – East Hollywood-SilverLake-Los Feliz. There never was a Dodge dealer in the LA Metro Corridor (at least not in recent memory).

Chrysler Group Brands

When the Great Recession hit and domestics shrunk their dealer franchises, several dealerships in the San Fernando Valley closed, including Big Valley Dodge in Van Nuys.  I always thought Chrysler would keep at least ONE Dodge dealership west of Downtown LA, but when Big Valley closed, the closest dealer for most customers in Metro LA was Glendale Dodge (which now includes the Chrysler and Jeep brands).

At the beginning of this year, Chrysler opened a company-owned multi-brand [Chrysler, Dodge, Ram, Jeep and Fiat] flagship store called Motor Village LA. It was also the location of the first Fiat Studio in the United States.  I attended the Fiat Studio opening and was impressed with the beauty and coolness factor of the new digs.  It’s a great old historic brick and stucco multi-story building with a display tower visible from the 110 freeway.  Not so great was the location on Figueroa near USC.  If I don’t work downtown or go to USC, I don’t want to go to this dealer for sales or service.

Chrysler ran afoul of California’s dealer franchise laws by owning the store within 10 miles of other Chrysler brand franchises, and last month, it was announced that Motor Village was being sold to New Century Automotive Group, known for its BMW and MINI franchises in North Hollywood adjacent to Universal Studios and its VW dealership in Glendale.

Motor Village LA

Up until just recently, Motor Village LA was the only Dodge franchise in Metro LA.

Big Valley Dodge has been replaced by California Superstores Chrysler Dodge Ram Jeep in Van Nuys and Buerge Chrysler Jeep added Dodge and Ram at its West LA location. So we replaced one in the Valley and gained one west of the 405.

I’ve always wondered how Buerge Chrysler-Jeep (and now Dodge and Ram) survived. I’ve been there a couple times in the past year and both times business seemed very slow – as in non-existent. Now let’s be clear, I usually go to dealerships on slow days so that the sales staff has time to kill and won’t mind me checking out a car without buying it.   But I can generally wander around the lot without being noticed by a salesperson and the showroom is usually empty. I checked the service bays in back, and there is some service life, but the bays definitely aren’t filled.

One time, I went to look at the all-new 2011 Grand Cherokee.  It had just come out to great reviews and Buerge had several on the lot. I looked in windows, walked around and kicked some tires.  Finally, a salesperson from the Ford dealer trotted across the side street and asked if I had any questions.  I said I was there to see the new GC. We chatted a bit, but I wasn’t offered a test drive. He told that Chrysler didn’t have any lease deals, so they were going to be too expensive to buy or lease.  Fair enough. I guess I should just take my business to Mercedes or Lexus and shop for lease deals there. I know they have deals and Jeep doesn’t!

A few years ago, I went into the same dealer to check out the Chrysler Crossfire convertible. That time, I got a test drive; but the salesman was sort of laissez-faire about the car or selling it. It had so little tech (or quality) for so much money.  He thought it was a better deal for me to just buy the Crossfire’s sister, the Mercedes-Benz SLK.  At least on the first-generation SLK (Mercedes just introduced the third-generation SLK), you got a retractable hardtop (not a soft top) and decent, if not great, dash controls and mechanicals.  How did they stay in business?

Buerge Chrysler Jeep Dodge Ram. Time for new signage?

This week, I was interested in the addition of the Dodge franchise. The lot still looked the same: Jeep on one side, Chrysler on the other. The only difference was the banner sign that had been up on the building for a few weeks.   This was a Monday afternoon, so I expected sales to be slow. I walked through the lot and into the showroom. No one.   I then heard some movement in the back, but it wasn’t forward movement.  There was a 2011 Chrysler 300 in the showroom, so I hopped in that.  Nice place to kill time, but where is the 2012 model?

Eventually, a salesman wandered in and spoke to me.  He didn’t introduce himself. I told him I was interested in the 2012 Dodge Charger with the 8-speed automatic transmission. He said that they did have a couple dozen Dodge vehicles on the lot, but no 2012 Chargers.  He pointed to one Ram truck at the end of the Chrysler lot.  Wow.   Apparently, the dealer has ordered a bunch of 2012 Chargers and they should arrive in about 3 weeks, if I believe him. He also told me to go online and check the dealer’s inventory. It would show the vehicles in inventory even if they were only in transit. I did. It didn’t.

Since he never introduced himself, I didn’t bother to either. No communication = no contact information.  I volunteered that I’d come back in a few weeks when they had some inventory and I left.  I’m pretty sure he didn’t care if I came back or not.

Buerge signage from the west side. I see lots of Jeeps. Where are the Dodges?

I kept wondering if  it was just me that had an uneasy feeling about this dealer. I checked Yelp and found ten reviews. Most were negative with one star while a few were positive with five stars.  The average of the ten was two stars.  Not great, but with Yelp, it’s hard to really evaluate a business without more comments.  I did find one comment that echoed my experience.  On August 1, 2011, Dmitriy B. from Tarzana says:

Don’t waste any time shopping for a car here. Ken from the sales staff will just tell you to buy the car somewhere else.

I’m going to go back in a few weeks to Buerge Chrysler Jeep Dodge Ram, now the only Dodge dealer on the West Side, to see if there are any new Chargers. I wonder if I’ll find a responsive salesperson. I doubt it.

I have some free advice for auto dealerships:  Social media is important. If you don’t have a Facebook  or Twitter account, I suggest you do both and engage customers and potential customers in your area.  Reach out to the people who have posted negative reviews about your business and see if you can fix it. When I read Yelp, I want to see higher ratings and many more positive comments. Ask existing customers to rate you on Yelp and/or participate with you on Twitter or Facebook.

Open a YouTube channel and post videos about your business and its employees. Also post videos from Chrysler corporate and other channels (Car & Driver, Autoweek, etc.) that give great reviews to the products you sell. Personalize the experience for your customers. It’s what you should  do and its a good way to burnish your image.  Your competition is already doing it and you don’t want to be left behind sucking the tailpipe.

Also, when I go to your website (I’m talking to you Buerge), I’m looking for a neat, organized corporate look, but not the dreary obligatory storefront I see. You should also change you name to reflect the addition of Dodge and Ram. I want you invite me to follow you on Twitter or join your Facebook page.  Post a video.  Add some color. Use pictures from your dealership, not stock photos.  If you want customers, just existing in a good location is no longer enough. You have to constantly work on and polish your image. Right now, it’s on life support.