Please ensure Javascript is enabled for purposes of website accessibility

Get out of Dodge

  • Strategies
  • Share

The cringes come quickly for Bob Boast Volkswagen President Steve Bierwirth when he attends Bradenton community and charity functions.

The reason for the recoil: Bierwirth is often introduced as president of Bob Boast Dodge — a moniker that was erased more than two years ago, in May 2009.

That was when Chrysler, parent of the Dodge brand, terminated 789 dealership franchise agreements nationwide, part of a federal government-backed bailout program. Bob Boast Dodge, which Bradenton businessman and World War II veteran Jim Boast founded in 1963, was on the termination list.

The dealership began to sell Volkswagen vehicles in the 1980s, mostly for a quirky alternative to Dodge. But after the Dodge franchise was plucked away, Volkswagen became the sole Boast brand.

“Our challenge,” says Bierwirth, “is to overcome the Dodge brand name and focus on Volkswagen.”

Bierwirth's plan to do that starts with a total overhaul of the showroom. It's a $2 million project that began in early January, when the old Dodge showroom was demolished.

The 4,000-square-foot showroom is scheduled for completion in May. It's designed under the new Volkswagen corporate showroom prototype. Bierwirth says Bob Boast Volkswagen will be one of three in Florida, and about 12 nationwide, with the new model. The other Florida Volkswagen locations with the new showrooms are in Miami-Dade and Orlando.

The design features floor-to-ceiling glass and a sleek all-white look. Lakewood Ranch-based Tandem Construction and Sarasota-based Jonathan Parks Architect are the lead firms behind the project. “It's a pretty extensive job we are doing,” says Bierwirth. “We feel we will get a lot of local attention.”

Jim Boast died several years ago, but the Boast family still owns the dealership through a family trust. The family hired Bierwirth in late 2010 to lead the transition from Dodge to Volkswagen. It was a familiar spot for Bierwirth because he ran a Dodge dealership in Indianapolis that Chrysler shuttered in 2009.

The Bob Boast Volkswagen push, meanwhile, could be timed just right: The German carmaker had its best year in the United States since 1970 in 2011, says Bierwirth, when it sold 320,000 cars. The company projects at least 15% growth in 2012 American sales.

Bob Boast Volkswagen sold about 1,200 cars in 2011, including new, used and wholesale vehicles, says Bierwirth. That translated to a little less than $20 million in revenues, up 25% from $15 million in 2010. Bierwirth projects the dealership, with 36 employees, will grow revenues 22-25% in 2012.

But even rosy sales projections and a glossy showroom on the way can't totally mask Bierwirth's main challenge: Replacing the Dodge brand with Volkswagen in the minds of Bradenton-Sarasota residents.

One step in that direction is a marketing and advertising campaign that includes Internet, print and TV ads. Bierwirth had a film company videotape the demolition of the old showroom, which will kick off a series of local TV commercials. The dealership also used a direct mail and email blast campaign to reach out to past and potential future customers. Bierwirth says the dealership spends at least $50,000 a month on an awareness campaign.

“We had some challenging times after we lost the Dodge franchise,” says Bierwirth. “(Now) we need to focus on who we are and what we do.”


Related Articles

  • February 25, 2010
Need for Speed
  • February 1, 2013
Wheels Up

Special Offer: $5 for 2 Months!

Your free article limit has been reached this month.
Subscribe now for unlimited digital access to our award-winning business news.
Join thousands of executives who rely on us for insights spanning Tampa Bay to Naples.