Customer service secret to Weber Motor Company's longevity

Kathryn Cargo By Kathryn Cargo

May 21, 2017 at 9:09 p.m.
Updated May 23, 2017 at 1 a.m.

Cliff Weber III, 59, of Cuero, holds a bill of sale denoting a trade in for two jersey cows from when his grandfather owned the dealership. "I didn't realize how neat it was to have a child enter the business until mine expressed interest," Weber said. "Now I know how my parents felt." His son Campbell Weber, 30, will join the dealership in June.

Cliff Weber III, 59, of Cuero, holds a bill of sale denoting a trade in for two jersey cows from when his grandfather owned the dealership. "I didn't realize how neat it was to have a child enter the business until mine expressed interest," Weber said. "Now I know how my parents felt." His son Campbell Weber, 30, will join the dealership in June.   Nicolas Galindo for The Victoria Advocate

CUERO - The philosophy the Weber brothers' grandfather passed down for three generations has kept the Weber Motor Company alive.

"The tactic that my grandfather has passed on from generation to generation is to take care of the customers," said business manager Richard Weber, 52. "Something that we feel is critical to the success of our business is customer satisfaction."

The Ford dealership's 80th anniversary is in July. It has been in the Weber family since Richard Weber and his brother, Cliff Weber III's grandfather, Michael Clifton Weber, and his sister started the business in 1937.

The beginning

The brothers' grandfather grew up in Meyersville with his aunt after his parents died at a young age. He worked at the Chevrolet dealership in Cuero until he and his sister, Agatha Weber Wagner, decided they wanted to bring Ford to the city.

"They were really taking on a huge risk to step out there and get into the car business," said owner Cliff Weber, 59.

The brothers still have handwritten invoice records from the first year of sales at the dealership. The dealership sold more than 100 cars after the business opened in July 1937.

One of the most interesting sales was a 1937 Ford pickup, which sold for $631. The customer traded in two jersey cows and a calf and an International truck for $150 off.

Joe Reuss, 89, of Cuero, has bought eight vehicles from the dealership during the course of half a century. He bought his first vehicle, a 1956 sedan, when he was in college. Now he owns a 1997 Ford F-150 and 2014 Ford F-150, both from Weber Motors.

"You can always depend on them. It's a family-owned dealership. The customers always come first," he said. "As long as I live, I will continue to do business with them always."

The Weber family has also always been involved in the community, Reuss said.

The brothers grew up in the business. Richard Weber remembers washing cars in the summers as a young preteen. His brother started the same way.

Cliff Weber remembers how big a deal it was when a new model of a car came out when he was little. The dealership used to have car shows for new models until the late 1970s or early 1980s.

"Our parents would work the night before getting everything ready. It was real secretive, hiding the cars," he said. "We spent hours with my parents at the dealership preparing."

Family tradition

The brothers' parents worked at the dealership as long as they could until their mom, Merilyn Weber, died in 2012 from cancer and their dad, Mike Weber, died in 2014 from a stroke.

Cliff Weber started working at the dealership straight out of college. He had the opportunity to work with his grandfather to see how the different generations operated.

"That was important to me, knowing how important it was to them to be able to carry it forward and do business in the same manner they'd always done it," he said.

Their dad worked at the dealership growing up and started again right after college.

Richard Weber left Cuero for a while and had a different career. After 13 years in the heath care industry, he joined the family business in 2002.

"My small-town family values were telling me this is really where you want to raise your children," he said. "I felt it was my calling to come back home and get involved in the family business."

The brothers have an older sister, Kathy Wilson, of Waxahachie. She never worked at the dealership.

Customer service success

The key to success is taking care of customers so they want to come back time and time again, he said.

When the regional oil boom ended at the end of 2014 and start of 2015, business was tough, but the dealership was able to stay afloat because of their customer service values and repeat customers, Cliff Weber said.

"Sales were terrible. Sales had dropped drastically, it happened so fast, and people were losing their jobs," he said. "It made everyone cautious in buying cars. Everyone tightened up."

Business since the oil industry began to pick up again at the end of 2015 has been good, Richard Weber said. Truck Month was in March, and the dealership had one of the best March months in recent history.

The dealership and its employees are a family, Richard Weber said. Many of them have worked there for 30 years or more.

"I'm 52, so I've been around it since a good part of its existence," he said. "Those employees and their families and the relationships that come from that has really touched my life."

The automotive industry has changed drastically over the last 80 years, Richard Weber said. The oldest car at the dealership, a 1931 model, is more simple than the vehicles of today such as a 2017 Ford Super Duty diesel.

"The technology, the computerization, what it takes for a technician to be able to work on vehicles now, it's amazing," he said. "Technology, without a doubt, has been the biggest change in the industry."

Cliff Weber agreed, adding technology has made cars much better than they were 80 years ago. Everything was done by hand back then, and now it is done by computers ranging from accounting to repairing cars.

The dealership recently earned the Ford's President's Award for the fifth consecutive year. The award is given to dealers with the highest level of customer service, Richard Weber said. About 340 dealerships received the award out of more than 3,300 Ford dealers.

Less than 3 percent of the entire Ford dealerships in the U.S. had won it five years in a row, he said.

"It's doing it with the most ethical business practices," Cliff Weber said. "Taking care of the customer and doing it in a ethical way, that I've always felt like you treat people the way you want to be treated and they keep coming back."

The family tradition of customer service will be passed on to Cliff Weber's son, Campbell Weber, 30, who is joining the dealership in June.


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