Twenty-four years ago when Ron Thompson of Thompson’s Toyota contemplated becoming a player in the new car scene in Placerville, he vowed his standard would be “customer service is everything.” The city had a long history of automobile stores, but this walk-on from Sacramento would make his dealership a laboratory of respect for the community as well as for his team members.
It has paid off in many ways with endless awards and citations for quality and good business practices.
“We were recognized by J.D Powers and Associates for being a successful rural auto dealer,” Thompson said. “We received the Mark of Excellence from General Motors and the President’s Award and Signature Award from Toyota.” Then in a classic understatement Thompson added, “And a few others.”
Being a good citizen and compassionate businessman was natural to the founder. But he also had some experience along the way. Before opening Thompson’s Buick GMC in 1989, he invested 25 years with Lew Williams Chevrolet working every job in the agency, beginning as a car washer, and winding up to general manager. Parlaying this into the GM franchise, he also bought the Stancil Toyota dealership. Over the years both enterprises have prospered. As they did, Thompson returned the favor.
Ever mindful of the needs of community and charity, Thompson helped build the 18,500-square-foot Skateboard Park in Placerville as well as contributing time and resources to other local and international causes through the Rotary Club, where he served as president in 2007-2008. Jeff Thompson is president-elect of the club and will serve in the coming year.
Rotary Park in town is receiving an extensive make-over, thanks in large part to the Thompsons. Wetlands conservation is also one of many interests important to Jeff. Toys for Tots takes lots of his time as well. This year the Thompson Auto Group raised 1,800 toys for the charity.
The Thompson clan includes Ron, his wife Betty, son Jason, a musician who travels the world, daughter Stacy, owner of Niemann’s AutoTouch on Forni Road in Placerville, and son Jeff, executive general manager of the family’s automobile businesses. He is married to Tracy, a home maker and fashion consultant. They have two kids, Zack, 10, and Jessica, 14.
Thompson’s Toyota, located at 140 Forni Rd. showcases hundreds of new and used cars, trucks and SUVs, and maintains 27 service bays. The Buick GMC facility also carries new and used vehicles at 55 Placerville Drive, across from the Fairgrounds. Both showrooms and customer lounges are about to be enlarged and remodeled.
“We have good and valued customers who come from Roseville and Folsom, even Stockton. Appreciation and follow-up service is why they come back,” Jeff Thompson explained. “It has to be a genuine quality in each of us, and becomes something we look for when we hire.”
Since 1989 the Thompsons have helped over 25,000 drivers select the right vehicles, many of whom return to Thompson’s dealerships for their next ride. There is a key to staying power, according to the National Automobile Dealers Association, and it isn’t the lowest price or the best financing or the most affable salesman. It’s all that plus listening, pacing, sincerity and insuring the removal of even the appearance of high pressure from the experience. “It’s called great customer service,” said Jeff Thompson. “It’s our lifeblood. We preach it, give it and live it.”
Thompson Toyota (thompsonstoyota.com) can be reached at 530-903-4570, Thompson Buick GMC (thompsonsbuickgmc.com) at 530-748-1293. Both Websites offer full displays of current vehicle offerings.