A visit to the headquarters of most large manufacturers typically involves running the gauntlet of getting through security, sitting in a waiting room knowing you’ll go through the obligatory sign-in with the receptionist, followed by a long wait for your appointment and being escorted to an empty conference room to wait further for the person your scheduled to visit – with just enough wait time to view your host’s self-promoting accolades covering the walls. Makes you feel like a number, doesn’t it?
That is until you visit the Leesburg, FL headquarters of the Columbia Vehicle Groups operations center for ParCar and Tomberlin. Here you’re more likely to be asked to grab a hammer, help carry a sheet of drywall, or lend a hand to Todd Sauey, the company CEO and Chairman, as he’s hanging cabinets in the new employee lounge. As one of the leaders of the largest family owned, privately held electric vehicle company in the U.S., being “hands on” is a natural part of the entrepreneurial spirit that led Todd’s father, W.R. Sauey to start the company seventy years ago. It’s evident a tireless work ethic and attention to detail runs in the family. In fact, Mr. Sauey, now 89, still reports to work daily, to include two days recently spent at their new east coast dealer support center “just to make sure things were being done right.”
“We’ve more than doubled our operations, warehousing and customer care center to assure we provide the finest support to our expanding dealer network. We believe in a culture that simply does what our competitors will not. Those that know the heritage of the Nordic Group also know we do not enter a market within which we cannot lead.”
– W.R. Sauey, Founder, The Nordic Group of Companies
THE NORDIC GROUP OF COMPANIES, LLC
Using the leadership skills learned serving his country in the Marine Corps in WWII, W.R. Sauey, the son of Norwegian immigrants started Nordic Group’s foundation company, Flambeau, in 1947. Building on his family and his people’s capabilities, and with all the money the family could place back into the business, W.R. started with a loan of $2,000 to grow an international organization that now delivers revenues of almost $400 million annually. The company consists of subsidiaries with 22 facilities, and 24 marketing units around the world with over 3,000 associates. This includes The Columbia Vehicle Group (CVG), consisting of the Columbia brand of commercial and industrial electric vehicles, and the ParCar and Tomberlin brands of consumer-oriented electric vehicles.
“With the Columbia Vehicle Group, we are supported by an organization with over 30 years of experience in the manufacturing of electric vehicles – with quality, innovation and performance matched by none. As one of their dealers during those same 30 years, the Sauey family has built a great company to partner with. It truly is a team-like relationship, and they are in a class above the rest.”
– Stu McGinnis, owner, South Jersey Electric Vehicles, Egg Harbor Township, NJ
ALL EYES FORWARD
Since last year’s announcement of Columbia ParCar’s acquisition of Tomberlin, one of the most recognized consumer-oriented LSV and PTV manufacturers worldwide, it’s been “all hands-on deck” as their consumer business segment, namely the ParCar, Tomberlin and Elite brands, has begun their mission to lead the industry in consumer-centric, safe, stylish and fun electric vehicles. And since they do not build fleet golf cars, CVG can focus all of their energy and resources on developing their value proposition aimed directly at pure electric vehicles for the consumer market.
“We are absolutely thrilled with this new partnership, which aligns perfectly with our goal of leveraging the considerable investment we have made over the last thirty plus years designing, manufacturing and distributing pure electric vehicles as we seek to become the leader in the growing consumer-oriented market. We will deliver products that meet our brand promise of leading in safety, styling and performance.”
– Todd Sauey, CEO
As much larger corporations distance themselves farther from their customer, the CVG’s leadership team and their relationship-oriented approach to running their business is one of the keys to their pursuit of becoming “the easiest company to do business with.” The merging of multiple corporate entities, brand strategies and product portfolios can be daunting, and Mike Tomberlin is the first to admit “there’s a lot of work to be done to better serve our dealers. We come to work every day with a singular focus on improving our business operations by adding value to everything we touch. Recalibrating to a customer-centric culture is not a marketing tagline. It is defined in our procedures, and can be measured in numerous touch points, such as answering the telephone with live voices and quick order fulfillment. Just ten months ago, we answered only 38% of our calls with live voices. Last month it was 95%. This transition is very deliberate and intentional. We’re developing a team that cares, a business you can trust and a brand that will lead.”
In 2016 the company focused their energies on building a solid foundation for growth, while being selective in assigning new dealers. Some of these key initiatives include:
- Expanding their Leadership Team with the addition of several industry veterans in key disciplines such as operations, sales management, dealer development, aftermarket support and marketing.
- Building a Client Care department in Leesburg, solely focused on dealer development and support
- A Significant Expansion of their Parts and Accessories inventories
- New Websites for ParCar, Tomberlin and Elite, with information-rich Dealer portals for authorized Dealer access to manuals, marketing materials, point of sale and other support tools
- Launching 4 Tomberlin models and 2 ParCar models featuring significant performance, styling and safety improvement
- Securing an attractive Wells Fargo floor plan program for their authorized dealers
- Expanding their Wisconsin engineering team and quality control initiatives
- Opening up communication portals for more consumer feedback
“We’re moving assets to the front of the business, with innovating product features clients don’t yet know they want. This is evidenced by Columbia becoming the go to brand when leading companies like Disney, Google, Tesla and American Airlines needed application-specific, customized vehicles capable of meeting the most difficult of extreme duty cycles, according to Tomberlin.”
“We’re extremely impressed with the quality of both the Tomberlin and ParCar products, particularly the eye-catching automotive type design, the feel of strength and safety when sitting in the product, the finish and the care taken to detail.”
– Brian Schreyer, GM, Apache Golf Cars, Mesa, AZ
LEADERS IN SAFEY, STYLING AND PERFORMANCE!
LEAD IN SAFETY.
We are committed to providing leading safety features with a core belief that safety drives quality, integrity, supplier standards, designs, features and channel partners.
LEAD IN STYLING.
Styling is often the foremost ingredient in building brand recognition and differentiation. ParCar’s Eagle and Tomberlin’s Emerge styling is distinctive, recognizable, and increasingly important to our target customers. Styling reflects a purposeful intent to stand apart.
LEAD IN PERFORMANCE.
This promise drives an acute awareness that the product must deliver a driver experience that is positive and remembered. We believe our products must be purpose engineered for a specific use, best accomplished through practical experience with passionate associates and consumers.
“Tomberlin has always led the pack in styling, and now with new standard features like the AC motor/controller, electric brake and onboard charger they are a real force to be reckoned with in the LSV market”.
– Jon Waldrop, owner. Electric Cart Company, Santa Rosa, FL
As the Columbia Vehicle Group welcomes the new year, their focus on continuing improvement while adding value to a dealer’s business will become even more intense. Perhaps like no other time in the 70 plus years of W.R. Sauey’s legacy of building market leading companies, Scott Breckley, President of the Columbia Vehicle Group, believes now is a golden opportunity for forward-thinking retailers to consider joining the ranks of the their select group of loyal and supportive dealers. “We have a strong belief in community-based distribution. At the end of the day, our primary purpose is to deliver the tools dealers need to win the battle of market share, one community at a time.”
“I’ve sold literally hundreds of Tomberlin’s over the last decade, and I plan on selling hundreds more. In fact, I sold 4 this past Saturday! My reasons for carrying Tomberlin are very simple. Consumers are immediately attracted to the Emerge styling. I make handsome margins. They don’t put dealers on every street corner. They answer my calls. And I like what I’m seeing from their leadership team. They are a strategic and valuable asset to my business, and I’m all in!”
– Tim Martin, owner, Caddyshack Golf Cars, Palm Desert, CA