What is it about a Volvo? This automobile has almost unmatched customer loyalty. Once people have one, they keep it as long as possible, and then, only when necessity dictates, turn it in for — of course — another Volvo.
“Customer loyalty is incredible,” says Chris Long, general manager of Volvo of Princeton (Long Motor Company) at Route One South in Lawrenceville. “We have customers who come back for another Volvo, and refer friends here. Customer service is very important to us. If customers have questions or if there is ever a problem, we take care of it right away. If people bring their cars in for service, we make sure they understand what is going to be done.
“Also, the cars today are so amazing, with such high quality and so many features. We’ll go over a new car with the customer for 35 minutes to make sure they understand it before they drive it away.”
Volvo of Princeton is very much a family business, adds Mr. Long. “My dad, David Long, with his brothers Matt and Larry opened the business at 255 Nassau Street in 1982.”
It relocated to its current spacious quarters in 1991.
The family focus is strong. Chris Long’s Three brothers are also in the business, and founders David and Matt continue to oversee the operation. There is lways a member of the Long family in every location
In addition to Princeton, the Long Motor Company has Volvo dealerships in Edison and Bridgewater?, and last April, they branched farther afield with the purchase of a Porsche/Mercedes-Benz dealership in Atlantic City. “This was an opportunity to diversify, and there has been a great response,” says Mr. Long. “My dad is in charge of the operation there.”
Volvo, with its unique history and passionately-devoted owners has a story all its own, he adds. Safety, durability, and longevity are stressed again and again. This has been paramount since the company began producing cars in Sweden in the 1920s.
“The guiding principle behind everything we make at Volvo is, and must remain, safety,” said Assar Gabrielson, a Volvo founder.
But how did this automotive company in Sweden (originally a ball-bearing manufacturer!) become such a big success in the car-conscious U.S.A.?
“The Swedes were very clever,” explains Mr. Long. “They had a contract to produce small delivery vehicles, and something happened to the contract, so in the early 1950s they added windows on the sides of the vehicles to resemble station wagons, and introduced them to the American audience.”
Thus began the American Volvo love affair, and it has only grown stronger over the years. The Longs felt Volvo would do well in Princeton, and it has been an excellent match.
“Our firm, an independent family-owned business, buys the most Volvos of any other small independent company in the world — outside of Sweden,” reports Mr. Long, who has worked full-time in the business since 1994. “Princeton people love their Volvos, and they keep coming back for more.”
Volvo cars are manufactured, assembled, and shipped out of Sweden, and the North American headquarters is in New Jersey, he adds.
Careful attention to every detail of the automobile’s production is key. “Steel is very important when the cars are made, and we use a very high grade of steel. It is also about the placement of the steel in the car. The air bags are another aspect. Many factors are involved to create the safest car,” points out Mr. Long.
“Another thing, Volvo is very environmentally-friendly. For example, Volvos are 85 percent recyclable.”
Also appealing to customers is the recent emphasis on design. Long known for its box-like shape, Volvo has added new lines with a more stylish look, a bit more flair. “We have a great range of styles,” says Mr. Long. “Our S-60 mid-size sedan is very popular, and we have a convertible, a sporty hatch-back, a wagon and various versatile SUVs.”
Silver continues to be the best-selling color, he adds.
Mr. Long is enthusiastic about the upcoming years, with Volvo poised to make a breakthrough in a number of areas. “In the next 12 to 18 months, Volvo will be revamping; coming out with smaller engines, higher performance, and two or three hybrids will be available. The company has been very careful about hybrids because they want to get it exactly right. Also, three of our current cars get 30 miles per gallon.
“I am really looking forward to the next five years,” he says. “It will be out of sight — changes with engines, environmental awareness. It is so exciting!”
Mr. Long, who grew up in the business, and learned it all — “sales, service, parts” — has always loved cars, and is fascinated by the changes in the industry. “The whole business changed with the internet. It’s so much easier to obtain information, and customers are much more knowledgeable. And with all the technology today, our technicians have on-going training and education at computer school. Some cars now start with the press of a button — not a key. It’s amazing!”
Customer satisfaction is a priority at Volvo of Princeton, and Mr. Long enjoys the interaction with all the clients. “We do all we can to make it a satisfying experience for them. We have a courtesy shuttle, our black and orange striped ‘Tiger’ car, to take people home or to the mall. We also have a complimentary loaner car, if their vehicle has to stay a longer time for service.
“And there are a lot of summer sales events now, with great leasing opportunities and payment plans available. For new Volvos, we offer free maintenance for five years or 50,000 miles.”
Volvo of Princeton has won many awards for sales and service over the years, and giving back to the community has always been an important part of the Long family’s philosophy.
“My dad received the Salute to Dealer Award from Ford Motor Company, when they owned Volvo,” notes Mr. Long. “This is based on commitment to service to the community, and he was one of nine recipients out of 62 nominations from 30 states.”
The company has donated a Volvo to the American Red Cross of central New Jersey’s annual raffle for more than 10 years, and Mr. Long is on the board. Volvo of Princeton regularly contributes to numerous charities and organizations in the area.
“The focus is about giving back,” says Mr. Long. “This has always been important to us. We want to make a difference to people.”
Volvo of Princeton is open Monday through Thursday 8:30 a.m. to 8 p.m., Friday until 6, Saturday until 5. (609) 882-6000. Website: www.volvocountry.com