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A hometown dealership

Webster City Auto Center carries full line of GM?vehicles and offers customers a certified service department

— Daily Freeman- Journal photo by Anne Blankenship James Bjorkland and Chad Carter, Webster City Auto Center sales associates, and George Bartlett, finance manager, gather around a Buick Cascada in the showroom of the dealership.

Webster City Auto Center is a full-service GM dealership that provides a wide selection of Chevy, Buick and GMC trucks, cars and SUVs. The business is the only new car dealership in the area but also have a selection of pre-owned autos.

Dan Ray, owner of Webster City Auto Center, has been in the car business since 1989. He started as a sales associate at a Des Moines dealership. He said he moved up the ladder as he gained experience to management positions. In 1996, he moved to Spencer where he bought into a store of his own.

“Then I ended up buying into three of the Motor Inn stores, starting them with a partner,” he said. When one of the stores closed, he ultimately decided to sell his interest in the Motor Inns and purchase the Webster City store on his own. He went from being a 35-percent owner in three stores to being the sole owner of the Webster City business.

An auto dealership has been in that same location, 129 Second St., for many years. Ray said the Webster City store was purchased from Leo Lambi in the mid-2000s. It was a Motor Inn from that time until 2014 when Ray became the sole owner.

“I’m a General Motors person and like the GM products,” he said.

The dealership draws customers from a wide cross-section of northern Iowa. Ray said the business’s area of responsibility covers all of Hamilton County and north towards Clarion and Eagle Grove.

“We offer a full line of service and our people are GM-certified technicians,” he said, adding that GM requires dealership technicians to take a classes and training each year to be certified.

“They’ve had lots of training, so when people deal with us, they can be confidant that our technicians know what they are doing,” Ray said.

He said the service department handles a full range of auto maintenance and repair including oil changes, tire rotations, brakes, batteries and multi-point vehicle inspections.

The store also offers a full parts department. Jerry Pedersen heads up the service and parts department at Webster City Auto Center.

Customers can also make an appointment to have their cars detailed at the dealership. Whether it’s a simply to remove some of the winter grime and dirt or to full buff and interior detail, Ray said detailers will keep the auto sparkling and road-ready.

Mike Hackbarth heads up the sales team and George Bartlett is the finance manager.

Customer service is important to Ray and the entire staff at Webster City Auto.

“I take pride in my dealership being honest with people and having integrity,” he said. “We don’t just want to sell someone a vehicle and forget about them. We want them to be part of our family.

“That’s how I feel about my employees, too. From the dealership to my other businesses, I just feel like they’re family to me,” he said. The dealership employs 12 full-time employees, along with a few parttime drivers.

The auto industry is constantly evolving, he noted. In the past five years, he’s seen the advancement of technology in autos.

“There’s a lot of advanced technology being added to vehicles these days. From the radios to the ways the vehicle can sense if you’re drifting off the road. Some can park themselves and have backup cameras,” he said.

“I want people to know that they can come into our dealership and find a fair deal and also be confident in knowing that they will be taken care of, not just at the sale, but after that as well,” he said.

The business also has a website, www.webstercityautocenter.com, where customers can see for what’s available on the lot. Ray said at the site features photos of between 75 to 100 vehicles at anytime.

“That seems to be the wave of the future. People really seem to like that,” he said.

The website also lets customers check out the value of their trade-in vehicles, start the financing process and calculate what their payments might be when purchasing an auto. Service appointments can also be scheduled via the website. For the customer’s convenience, pickup and dropoff can be arranged for autos coming in for service.

Ray said shopping locally is important in maintaining a business in the community. That notion is reflected in his employees who hale from Webster City and surrounding communities.

“People like to buy from people they know,” he said. “We can be as competitive as any other dealership. But we are the hometown people that support the community. We try to buy everything we can at the local level. If you want these businesses to be there, you have to support them,” he said.

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