Maybe it was the salesman who was too busy asking Judy Kilburn out on a date rather than focusing on selling her a car that convinced her to go into business for herself as an auto broker. Her boyfriend (now husband) was in the business at the time. What started out as an entrepreneurial endeavor back in 1977 has evolved into a flourishing professional niche in the automotive acquisition and sales industry for her and business partner Karla Cooper.
The two petite blondes behind the wheel of American Chariots, the oldest licensed auto brokerage firm in the state of Florida, are celebrating their 35th year as a women- owned-and-operated automobile brokerage firm. From the early days of securing deals on vehicles out of Detroit, to today’s popular lease options, international freight scheduling, and online challenges, Kilburn and Cooper manage to take the anxiety out of getting a new ride.
With an average of 300 to 400 cars sold annually, American Chariots runs the gamut of finding the right vehicle stateside (or from wherever around the globe it may reside) while dealing with transport logistics, trade-in negotiation appraisals, and budget maximums. The ladies also answer their own phones and make the coffee.
“We are women who do it all,” said Cooper. “We negotiate for our clients the best deal for lease or purchase, trade-in or not. Getting a new car can be the most expensive and stressful experience of a lifetime.”
American Chariots has fleet divisions of vehicles at dealerships that cater specifically to them due to their large purchase volume. They keep close tabs on the latest dynamics of trade and available inventory to best suit client needs. Hearing the women talk shop offers an enlightening lesson in today’s automotive economics.
“Knowledge is power,” said Cooper.
“People who held onto their cars during the recession are loosening up and demand is starting to roll since the beginning of last quarter. However we are contending with a short supply of vehicles from Europe since production slowed down, as well as the after effects of the Japanese earthquake and tsunami.”
“We stay low key,” added Kilburn. “Most of our business comes from word of mouth referrals. Clients know we know how to get the job done. And we explain how the system works which makes for instant credibility.”
That instant credibility is actually a result of long established expertise going back to Judy Kilburn’s elementary school teaching days where she developed her penchant for perfection. Karla Cooper’s military back- ground as an administrative sergeant out of Frankfurt, Germany in the Army trained her to handle anything. Nowadays they have parlayed that professionalism and consistency into a business that works for them and their many clients.
Consumers today contend with internet in authenticity in the changing automotive market. They can be saddled with unexpected fees before online protected release prices are divulged. These charges may often come in the form of non-refundable add on fees. “It’s a world of internet right now and people think the internet is telling the truth but actually the communication may be inaccurate,” said Kilburn. “Fees like for availability or preparation may be left out. Charges are at times added that you were not made aware of.”
Kilburn says that ingrained in the culture of a new car purchase, buyers often “expect the trouble” they receive when trying to buy a new vehicle. “It does not have to be like that. We are on the same side of the desk as the client.”
To find out more about American Chariots call 305-665-1577 or visit www.americanchariots.com.
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