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Summit Auto Group

In 2004-2005, Stephen DiMarco and Tom Kristoff started Summit Autos in Elbridge, NY. Situated at the four corners in Elbridge sat the Buick, Pontiac and GMC store. The shop had about 30 employees to start. DiMarco and Kristoff were friends as well as business partners – Tom had the auto industry knowledge and history while Stephen was an accountant and knew business. This was the perfect blend that would start a great company like Summit.

Summit supported The Great Race event among many other community events in an effort to give back to the community.

Now the four locations have 125 employees including Chris DiMarco. Chris studied at Syracuse University and majored in Business. During Summers and between semesters, Chris worked for Summit whether it was bringing cars to the service bays or washing them to give to customers. He learned the business from the ground up and found it fascinating. “One day, Tom told me to get out on the sales floor,” said Chris. “I wasn’t sure he meant it, but he did and so I went.”

The Summit Group makes appearances and shares the gift of reading as part of their focus on the community’s youth and their educational needs.

After college and a few years of selling under his belt, Chris was sent to a financial and insurance school specific to the auto industry. Chris had already learned so much from his Dad (Stephen) and his father-in-law (Tom). “I saw how they worked so well together and I wanted to be a part of that. I tried to be a sponge and absorb everything about the business. I worked every department so that I could get a better understanding” stated Chris. When I asked him why this was important, he replied,
“If I understand the whole business, then I can give my customers the best possible
service and service is what makes our business work because every employee
believes the same way.”

Unfortunately, Tom Kristoff passed away and the loss was felt through the whole place.  “His were pretty big shoes to fill,” Chris said somberly. Each employee felt the same way, “We’re like family and have very little turn over with staff. Many of our people have been with us since we opened.” Chris explained. That speaks volumes when you’re talking about a place that has a collective work force of 125+. It also speaks volumes about Chris and his family as well, “It’s very important to us that we stay in touch with our staff. It’s not just a good rapport, we try to connect with our entire staff. We want them to know that their opinion matters.” Before major decisions are made, every staff person is asked for their opinion, then all ideas are considered.

One of the most recognizable faces of The Summit Group, Traci, spends some quality time reading with students thrilled with the new additions to their library.

Part of what makes Summit so successful is the knowledge and sharing of knowledge that each person there gives to both fellow staffers and to the customer. “Customer service is extremely important to us. Many times, people cannot drive their car to Auburn for repairs so we take a loaner home, drop it off to the customer, and then drive their car to the shop.” And it’s not just for those who live in Auburn or Elbridge, you can live almost anywhere and they will provide the same service. “It’s why I’m willing to drive 45 minutes to work every day.” Chris lives in Fayetteville, but gladly drives to Auburn every day! This attitude is why Summit has so much repeat business. And the repeat customers is why they opened new locations – to better serve those looking to buy a car or to have one repaired.

There are four Summit locations: Summit Buick, Chrysler, GMC in Auburn, and right across the street is Summit Ford and Lincoln. Oneida has the Chrysler, Dodge, Jeep and Ram dealership. Elbridge is still home to the Car and Truck Center, Care Quest Auto Parts and the Collision Center. So, no matter where you bought your car, Summit can service it. The Summit Auto dealerships thought of everything and pride themselves on service which is probably why they have such a great following.

The Summit Group actively participates in the “Toys for Tots” program as another way of giving back to the community.

These are the traits that make Summit a cut above the rest! Every Summit employee is very active in their communities. “We believe that giving back to the community is a must” claims Chris. They sponsor many programs so they can stay in touch with their community. One of their primary focuses is youth – they sponsor programs from elementary to high school. One such program is their book program. “We collect books at each store and then take them to area elementary schools to improve their library.” Chris also said … “Then there is the Great Race of Auburn, and we sponsor the pace car. Of course, Traci is there to help with the race, and everyone has a great time.” They also support Toys for Tots every year and take them to Wayne Mahar when it gets near Christmas. “Tom Loving plays Santa and works on air with Wayne. We love that program and we love to help.”

I asked, “So what’s next?” Chris replied, “We hope to continue quality service and do right by our customers. We’re in it for the long haul so we have to make service #1.” And service is Chris’ favorite part of the business, “whether it’s the customer or our staff. It’s like a puzzle and you have to make the pieces fit. You have to have the right employee for the right task so you can get the customer into the right car. We want our customers to be happy with their purchase emotionally, physically and financially.” And the tall order of service doesn’t end there – he enjoys watching his team too. He wants to help them with the day to day stuff. Chris said, “I want to help the staff and their families with their lives too. The best way to keep your team happy is to make sure their environment is vibrant with high morale, better goals and help them reap the benefits of their labor. It is just doing the right thing.”

Doing the right thing is just the way the Summit Auto Group does business, and it’s beneficial for everyone. Want a superior car shopping experience without the hard press of the sales person? Visit Summit where they will sell, service and send you home with a car that make you happy you went to Summit!

Janet LaFrance