Mitsubishi Motors Dealer Partner Spotlight – Vern Eide Mitsubishi’s Employee-Owned Business Model Ensures Long-Standing Commitment To The Community
Mitsubishi Motors North America, Inc. (MMNA) is celebrating dealer partners who go above and beyond for their communities. They provide more than just a great place to buy a car – they help their hometowns thrive in the good times and heal in the challenging times. They rise to the occasion, whatever the occasion may be.
Vern Eide Mitsubishi is part of the Vern Eide Motorcars group in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. In 2009, the auto group expanded outside of Sioux Falls and now oversees stores throughout the region providing sales and service for not only automobiles, but also motorcycles, tractors, boats, and other powersports vehicles. In 2018, Jim Lake and his family assumed control of the group from the Eide family and later developed a unique twist in the automotive landscape; to share dealership ownership with their employees.
Q&A WITH JIM LAKE
CEO, Vern Eide Motorcars, Sioux Falls, SD
- We understand Vern Eide Motorcars started back in the 1960s and the group took off from there? Yes, it started out as a store for a number of manufacturers in 1965. In 2009, we expanded out of Sioux Falls and now have stores in Sioux City, Iowa, Mitchell, South Dakota, a motorcycle store in Sturgis, and another powersports store along with Mitsubishi in Sioux Falls. We're coming up on twenty years with Mitsubishi. We picked up the franchise in the early 2000s. It was a family-owned business. Our namesake Vern Eide hired me in 1985 and then it was myself and his children for about twenty years. We assumed control of the group from the Eide family in 2018, and, in January 2022, the Mitsubishi store in Sioux Falls became employee-owned, which is rather unique in the automotive world.
- Employee-owned? Can you tell us more about that? Yeah, so it's a bit of a long story. My son was heir apparent to the business, but he passed away unexpectedly and as my wife and I processed that loss and how to move forward, we felt called to share the business with the rest of our people as a way to honor our son's memory.
- How has the employee-ownership model worked out? The results have been nothing short of tremendous. We had our best year of the company's history in 2022. We're very excited and part of that vision was to move the Mitsubishi brand into the complex that it's in now, which in itself is kind of a unique thing. We purchased an old grocery store building that's around 120,000 square feet so we have a reconditioning center, our Mitsubishi store, our collision center, and our marine store all on one campus. In addition, we moved all of our marketing group, including our ad agency, as well as our accounting employees into the facility. It's an absolute beehive. We're excited about the Mitsubishi brand and to date, our masterplan is working beyond our wildest dreams.
- How has that structure impacted your company culture and community engagement? A couple of things to know about the whole heart behind employee-owned is we've always been a company that would put our customers and employees first. So that was a dream. Vern gave me an opportunity of ownership and we wanted to do the best we could to share that with everybody. Our legacy of giving as a company over the last 20 years; we've given back about five million dollars, either as a company or ownership personally, and we believe our employees will do even bigger and better things.
- Are there any charity programs you contribute to that you're specifically fond of? When we adopted the company from the Eide family, we actually set up an internal employee committee that directs all of our giving. My two favorites personally are a place called Children's Inn, which is a domestic violence shelter, and then a place called the Union Gospel Mission, which is a homeless shelter that provides housing and food. There's a significant list of charities that we give to but those two save lives, and I have family members who had to live through some of those situations, so it's personal for me. We partner every year with Children's Inn. They have a summer campaign called “Drive Out Domestic Violence” and as part of our contribution, we share media with them to bring awareness to the cause. In fact, all of our employees actually have apparel they wear to support the summer campaign. Between corporate giving and personal giving, we probably support them for somewhere between $25,000 and $35,000 per year.
- Does your charitable involvement extend beyond monetary donations? Truly, we've been given the gift of having some of the finest employees in the world. They show every day that their hearts are as big as... I can't even describe it. And, yes, their generosity extends well beyond monetary donations. They'll go out and put their own hours in support of our charity organizations. They do thousands of hours of work for our causes, giving generously of their time along with their resources. They always show up, and that's where all the credit should go.
- Your employees sound like one big family. How do you share that culture with the community? Sioux Falls is an amazing place, you know. Our community is an extension of our family. This area has all the good stuff: there are enough people here that it gets to be like a city while keeping the small-town characteristics and all the benefits that come with that, and it’s still small enough where most of your customers are on a first-name basis with you. There isn’t, in my opinion, a better place to do business than in the community we live in. The people are awesome, the business climate is outstanding, and there are just wonderful mid-western folks.
- Has that support of the community been reciprocated? Yeah, they’ve been very, very supportive of us. Our customers and our employees are actually what drives this train. They have a unique relationship because our employees will do anything for our customers and our customers have been amazingly generous to us. In 2020, when things were really sketchy during the beginning of the first summer of COVID when we didn’t know what was going to happen, we were committed to the customers and literally the support they gave us by showing up and buying cars; it was amazing. No one knew what was going to happen next and it was right in the middle of us constructing our new Mitsubishi store. We had a lender pull our financing from us. A local lending group came in and had us back up and rolling in 72 hours and then the customers came. It turned into record profits a year later, but in those first six months, no one really knew what was going to happen. Here’s an example of what our employees did: They took the proceeds of every car that we sold and went out and bought gift cards from all the restaurants in town, about half a dozen of them because they were an industry that actually was hit harder than ours. I think to date we’ve purchased over a quarter million dollars of those gift cards to push our customers back to the restaurants to have those businesses flourish, so that just gives a feel for what it’s like to live in Sioux Falls. People take care of each other.
ABOUT MITSUBISHI MOTORS NORTH AMERICA, INC.
Through a network of approximately 330 dealer partners across the United States, Mitsubishi Motors North America, Inc. (MMNA) is responsible for the sales, marketing and customer service of Mitsubishi Motors vehicles in the U.S. In its recently announced Midterm Plan – “Challenge 2025” – MMNA’s parent company Mitsubishi Motors Corporation (MMC) has committed to accelerating its efforts toward a sustainable carbon-neutral future, setting goals of 40 percent reduction in vehicle CO2 emissions and 50 percent reduction in operational CO2 emissions by 2030. Additionally, MMC has set targets for global sales of electrified vehicles at 50 percent by 2030 and 100 percent by 2035, leveraging a blend of plug-in hybrids (PHEV), hybrids (HEV) and pure electrics (BEV).
MMNA has its headquarters in Franklin, Tennessee, as well as corporate operations in California, Georgia, Michigan, New Jersey, Texas, and Florida.
For more information on Mitsubishi vehicles, please visit media.mitsubishicars.com.
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