Some car dealers get a bad rap. Automotive Avenues, on the other hand, has a 4.8-star rating on Google, based on nearly 5,000 reviews. Since 2010, the Wall Township, New Jersey-based used car dealer has been coupling wholesale pricing with first-class customer service--a “winning formula,” says Bill Solko, founder and dealership principal. Automotive Avenues is the largest independent used-car dealership in the state of New Jersey, according to IHS Automotive, and has ranked on the Inc. 5000 for the last three years. Despite the pandemic, the company continued to grow, earning the No. 86 spot on the 2021 Inc. 5000 regionals list. Now, Solko is expanding to support more inventory and more satisfied customers.
A new kind of car-buying experience
Consumer expectations and shopping behavior have changed since Solko started the business, and some dealers can’t keep up. A small fraction of customers are skipping dealers all together and buying online instead. Automotive Avenues offers online sales and ships vehicles nationwide, but Solko believes most car shoppers want to see the car in person. “You wouldn’t buy a house without walking through it. For most people, buying a car is the second largest purchase they’re going to make in their lives,” he says. “Most people want to see and drive before they buy.”
Solko and his team of 95 employees work hard to create a welcoming atmosphere for customers and families and to be transparent about pricing and quality. “I would rather have a customer not buy a car and leave happy than buy a car and leave upset or disappointed,” he says.
Expansion with a family-friendly focus
One of Solko’s favorite things about running a business is getting to know people in the community. He is also excited to work alongside his children. His oldest son Noah has already joined the business, and his younger son Matthew plans to start after college. “I love that families are coming in to do business with my family,” he says, adding that consumer confidence means a lot to him, especially during COVID-19. Automotive Avenues invested significantly to keep customers and employees safe, for example, by adding climate-controlled outdoor seating, retrofitting the HVAC system, and deep cleaning and sanitizing vehicles.
Recently, the dealership began a $6 million expansion project to add 11,000 square feet to its existing 17,000-square-foot facility. The new building will include an automatic car wash and 17 motor vehicle lifts, allowing Automotive Avenues to clean, service, and process more vehicles. As they build out the space, Solko will continue to focus on delivering exceptional service. “I’m the kind of person who can’t sleep if I have a dissatisfied customer,” he says.
That kind of personal commitment should fuel continued growth--and more positive Google reviews--for Automotive Avenues.