MERCEDES-BENZ cars are renowned for being reliable, commanding strong levels of customer loyalty.
Now a Mercedes-Benz salesperson from Melbourne has been awarded the same commendations after 50 years of unfailing support for the single brand and the single dealership that first employed him in March 1967.
A lot of customers have dealt with Alf Buccella and some, he told GoAutoNews Premium, have been with him almost since the beginning when 3 Point Motors was located in North Fitzroy.
Back then he joined the dealer as an apprentice motor mechanic and didn’t move into sales until 1980.
“As an apprentice I swept the floor,” he said, “then as a service advisor I learned intricate technical details of all our cars, so I could talk with confidence to customers about their pride and joy.
“As a sales manager I learned how to manage a team and foster talent.”
“The first car I sold was a 450SE in Lapis Blue.
“I have regular customers. There is one customer who I have known since 1990. I’ve sold at least 15 cars to him and his family.”
Mr Buccella said the biggest change in selling cars today compared to when he started was the use of the internet.
“It’s changed everything. Everything from getting inquiries through online classifieds, to getting online customer service index surveys back,” he said.
“My customer database was in a book, now it’s online in a spreadsheet.
“It has also changed the way a customer buys a car. People come in already well-informed on the product and they don’t rely on the salesperson for information as much.
“I can still teach them a lot though, as there’s other aspects that they can’t learn online.
“The buying experience is crucial with Mercedes-Benz and that’s where a good salesperson makes all the difference.”
Mr Buccella said the type of person who becomes a Mercedes-Benz customer is also different from the early years.
“It’s changed with the new, younger models of vehicles,” he said.
“In 1980 when I started selling, all we had was S-Class, E-Class and SL. They cost as much as a house.
“After I started they brought out the W201 190E, which was more accessible.
“Nowadays the cars are still premium, but they’re much more affordable.
“So we’re seeing a lot more younger customers, who come from a much wider range of backgrounds.”
In Australia 20 years ago, the 1998 sales figures for Mercedes-Benz showed annual sales of almost 9000 vehicles and the mid-sized E-Class model holding the majority 25 per cent share of the brand’s registrations.
In 2017, the car-maker sold 37,000 cars and SUVs with 23 per cent of sales going to the mid-size C-Class and 13 per cent to the smaller A-Class hatchback.
So what does he drive? “I get a company vehicle so I don’t own a car. My son has a 2003 CLK500 Coupe and my wife has a C280.”
Mr Buccella’s employer, 3 Point Motors, celebrated his 50th anniversary with a short video (see story online) in which he talks reflectively of his time with the brand, the dealership and his extensive customer base.
Long-time customer, and local to 3 Point Motors, construction magnate Bruno Grollo, said: “I found him to be a gentleman, he’s a nice guy, he always keeps to his word.”
One of Alf’s early disciples who is now joint-dealer principal and 25-year veteran of 3 Point Motors, Michael Di Muzio, said: “I can’t imagine 3 Point without Alf. He’s like putting the Mercedes-Benz badge on the car. He fits, you need him there.
“He’s quiet and humble but he produces the results of a superstar.”
Alf’s achievement was recognised at the recent national Mercedes-Benz Retailer of the Year Awards held in Melbourne where he received a standing ovation when presented with his 50 Years Award from Daimler Australia/Pacific CEO Horst von Sanden.
“We all learn by the example Alf sets every day, he’s an honour to have in our organisation,” said Jason Rowe, 3 Point Motors joint- dealer principal.
By Neil Dowling