Since 1983, Champion Chevrolet in Athens has been serving the good folks of Athens and Limestone County. Beginning in 2013, Champion will be celebrating thirty years of continuous successful sales and service, and has some great news to announce: they are going to begin a yearlong remodeling project that will result in a gorgeous new facility in the same location on Hwy 72. Premier Structures Incorporated has been hired to do the work, and General Manager Joel Hamm is quite pleased that locally owned PSI will be the ones handling the job. The current building has about 10,000 square feet, and there will be an additional 3,000 square feet added. “Everything will be new, down to the color, tile, furniture, general layout, conference rooms and offices,” Joel told me.
Though the building will be new, the things that have given Champion Chevrolet such a solid presence in Athens will still remain. These include being in the same location and under the same ownership since Champion’s inception. Joel says, “We think this is one of the many keys to our success. Customers appreciate being able to deal with the same people on a regular basis. When dealerships are constantly on the move or changing the name on the sign, they tend to lose credibility. We are fortunate to have been on Highway 72 since we started.”
That is not to say that there have not been significant changes along the way. In 2006, Champion acquired the Chrysler, Dodge, and Jeep franchise. Hamm says, “We were very excited about being the first dealer to offer the people of Athens Jeep products. Jeep has one of the best reputations for durability and resale in the business.”
In addition to the Chrysler products, Champion opened the Powersports division, offering a full line of off road and all terrain vehicles. Newly acquired are the Victory motorcycles, and the all electric GEM cars. Champion now offers over 50 new models from six manufacturers to choose from. Joel continued, “We like to think we can take care of our customers’ every automotive or recreational need, whether it be sales or service.”
Customer service, whether it is repairing a new or used vehicle, or at the point of sale, is unquestionably the thing that keeps Champion in the running, even with GM’s recent corporate challenges nationally. Champion’s statistics show that the sale of a brand new car translates into the subsequent sale of five to six automobiles to the same person or family, based on the level of customer service. Joel mentioned that it is not at all uncommon for people all the way from Birmingham to Tennessee to come once a year to buy at Champion, “because of the service.” Hamm added, “We hire real, local people, and we keep good people.” He continued, “Any successful relationship is built on trust and communication. We try to make our customers feel like they are appreciated and valuable to us. We realize their time is valuable, and we try to treat them as we would want to be treated.” I might add, you can never beat following the Golden Rule for success, which also happens to have been his dad Norman’s credo, and Joel expects 2013 to be their “biggest year ever.”
One of the things I enjoyed in my time chatting with Joel was hearing his heart for his employees, our local economy, and obviously, for the customers. He handed me the sheet he gives every new employee, and it contains the following statements:
Business will continue to go where invited, and return where appreciated.
Reputations will continue to be made by many acts, and ruined by one.
Performance will outsell promises.
Enthusiasm is contagious.
Know-how will surpass guesswork.
Trust, not tricks, will keep Champion customers loyal!
Reputation is valuable-Character is priceless!
I like this so much that I am making a copy for myself. We ended our time together by talking about the product changes for the next 18 months. Ten cars and trucks, including the Silverado, Impala, Corvette and Tahoe have undergone extensive design changes, and the Corvette is particularly impressive. ‘Vettes are a favorite of Joel’s, and he loves everything about them, from the lines to the technology. Conversely, he has completely restored a ’59 Apache pickup truck, and he plans on giving it to his kids.
Champion Chevrolet has received several industry awards and has been voted “Favorite Dealership” several years in a row. To view their full inventory, go to www.championofathens.com, or www.championpowersports.net.
921 S. Clinton St
Athens, AL 35611
By: Ali Elizabeth Turner