For more than 60 years, the Corvette has been America’s main contender in the supercar world, and for the past 24 years, one dealership in a location most people don’t think about twice has had an immense corner on the ‘vette market.
Hammond, Louisiana, is just as close to the Alabama border as it is to Baton Rouge, tucked across Lake Pontchartrain from New Orleans. It’s the home of Southeastern Louisiana University, and is one of the top destinations in the nation for lovers of Corvettes, all thanks to Ross Downing Chevrolet.
They don’t have customers, they have lifelong friends. It’s not a place where employees come and go; most of the sales team has been there upwards of 30 years. Three generations of Downings have walked through the front door as employees, and with the dealership’s growth, there are few doubts a fourth will join them down the line.
In the early 1990s, Ross Downing’s son Dudley was becoming a key member of the dealership’s management, and was looking for a new way to take them to the top. In 1991, he pushed to increase how many Corvettes were allocated to their dealership.
“We’re going to take hold of this market and become a Corvette dealer,” he told Rod Morris, a childhood friend of Dudley’s who is now a 26-year Sales Executive at the dealership. The number of Corvettes on their lot increased almost overnight, and by 1997 they rose to the rank of 20th in the nation.
Their team is passionate but straight-forward in their approach to sales, which has pushed them from 20th to ninth in the nation for Corvette sales in 2014. Most of the Corvettes in their lot are sold before they even arrive, with an average of 20 making their way to a new owner every month.
So how do they bring a customer back for their second, third, sixth or tenth Corvette in nearly as many years? As Rod sees it, it’s simply the cars.
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“With the new Stingray, Chevy hit a home run with that car,” he explained. “It brought a lot of European buyers into the market, and when you have a car like that, people from all over the country start trying to get a hold of it.”
Of course, there’s much more than just the car that pushes them beyond the hundreds of other Chevrolet dealers across the country. They offer the kind of work ethic you only hear stories about, with a reliability and guarantee of quality service that’s hard to find anywhere. Glowing customer reviews, a heavy presence online and regular print appearances in the duPont REGISTRY also helped push them in front of buyers from all over the country.
“We sell to California, Washington, Maine, Florida, we sell everywhere. We even had one guy from Colorado drive in and trailer his car back.”
But many of their local customers have been purchasing from them for decades, some buying as many as 10 Corvettes in 15 years. Both the Greater New Orleans Corvette Club and the Baton Rouge Corvette Club have a large number of cars from Ross Downing, as well as regular attendees of the occasional event at the dealership.
They’ve hosted the ‘Vettes and ‘Vs Car Show annually for quite some time, but have had to move off site to SLU as attendance grew larger each time. Check it out next time you’re in Hammond, and be sure to look through their inventory to find the Corvette missing from your collection.
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