Hassett Automotive

OK, so, you’re one of the all-time most-successful car dealerships in the history of Long Island … you are, in fact, the No. 1 volume dealer of Ford, Lincoln and Mercury models in Nassau and Suffolk counties, and you’ve also been known to move a Subaru or two … and now you’ve been honored – for the seventh consecutive year – with the super-prestigious Ford Motor Company President’s Award, which recognizes superior accomplishments in both sales and service … so what do you do?

You party.

Owner, Don Zergebel

That’s exactly what the owners, managers and staff of Hassett Automotive did Sept. 10, hopping a ferry to Fire Island and taking over the Island Mermaid waterfront restaurant for a night of food, drink and honorifics. Hosted by Don Zergebel and his son Marc, the celebration both honored and encouraged Hassett’s 70-member team, which relished the opportunity to take a breather – and a bow.

“The food was great, the hospitality was great … it couldn’t have been nicer,” says Lou Evans, Hassett of Wantagh’s general sales manager. “The staff really earned this, and they really enjoyed it.”

The President’s Award is bestowed upon dealerships that excel in customer satisfaction in sales and service (based on satisfaction surveys and internal reviews) and also exceed regional and national sales averages. The award is not some arbitrary prize, Lou notes, but a true yardstick of a dealership’s sales and service skills – making the seven straight honors “really something to be proud of.”

“We do a better job of penetrating what we call our Area of Responsibility,” he says. “That’s because of a multitude of things. Reputation, pricing, New Media Marketing … it’s a lot of things, starting with the ownership, the management and the personnel.”

And while you might expect Ford vehicles to earn a certain market share based on reputation and performance alone, Lou believes the superior quality of Ford’s cars, trucks and crossovers has little to do with Hassett’s long-running success.

“It’s not just the cars,” Lou says. “The cars might explain the regional penetration, but when you’re consistently beating national and regional levels, it’s got to be more than the cars.

“Customer satisfaction in sales and services,” he adds. “That’s the biggest component. You can’t win the President’s Award without any one component, but you have to take care of the customer first, or nothing else works.”

The soiree at the Island Mermaid, therefore, became Hassett of Wantagh’s chance to take care of the caregivers – a night for the owners to thank their hard workers. The party, which also included a few select vendors, included a DJ, a roaming photographer and “all sorts of video screens showing pictures from the dealership and pictures that were being taken there that evening,” Lou says. “It really was a great time.”

Marc Zergebel and GSM Lou Evans

But the party’s over, for now, and it’s back to business at Long Island’s busiest dealership. Hassett won’t know if its President’s Award streak reaches eight until early next year, when Ford announces its 2010 honorees, but the staff is hard at work making sure it happens.

“So far, the numbers are looking good, but we won’t know officially until next year,” Lou says. “Regardless, we’re always going to do our best to make sure the customer is serviced properly and respectfully, and to keep selling some of the best cars on the road today. That’s what we always do.”