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O'Brien Auto Group New Owner of Salem's DeLon Auto CenterBonnie King Salem-News.com Business Report
O'Brien Auto Group, the largest auto dealer in Washington state, has completed its purchase of DeLon Auto Center and invited Salem-News.com to see for ourselves what this evolution means to Salem.
(SALEM, Ore.) - There's a new kid in town, and his name is Mike O'Brien. He has quite a reputation for his success on the business front, as well as out on the field. Maybe it's just the shot in the arm Salem needs to remind consumers that the best value may indeed be just down the street.
The O'Brien Auto Group purchase includes all four DeLon dealerships and represents OAG's formal entry into the Oregon market. The DeLon dealerships have been re-named under the O'Brien Auto Group brand as BMW of Salem, Honda of Salem, Volkswagen of Salem and Volvo of Salem. DeLon has been a pillar in the Willamette Valley for decades, but change is inevitable. Tom DeLon retired recently, and Michael O'Brien, owner of O'Brien Auto Group found a natural fit with the Salem dealerships.
"Salem's a great market. Everybody talks a lot about Portland. Why? If we offer the best product possible right here, that's what people will know, and they'll come back for that quality. We're putting more emphasis on customer service, and taking care of the people that live here," O'Brien told me. Even with the ownership change, O'Brien retained most of the same employees, from management on down.
"During the past 20 years we've steadily become the largest and most successful auto group in Washington state," said O'Brien. "We want every one that works with us to have a positive experience. Our employees are the best, and they have the highest quality training and support. That's what we want our customers to see, and to remember, and that's what we're bringing to Salem."
"We looked at the great opportunity here, and decided to make use of areas that have been underused in the past. Like this corner, for instance," he said, referring to the re-vamped, recently empty structures on the North Commercial used car lot. "This is terrific frontage, and makes use of buildings that were just waiting to be given a purpose. We're making the most of what we've got, we can do that."
"Moving forward, our goal is to make buying cars and trucks easier and more enjoyable, creating jobs for residents, and to give back in ways that will make Salem an even better place to live and work."
Who is Michael O'Brien?
Sports fans might know his name from his football career which spanned from West Bremerton High School, onto Olympic College, the California Golden Bears, to the Seattle Seahawks and the USFL's Oakland Invaders. He grew up learning the car business from his step-father Roger Tallakson and the late Chuck Haselwood in Bremerton.
He experienced plenty of injuries, which eventually ended his game on the field. "As it worked out, it was best," he said. "If I had a 10-year career, I might not be in the car business."
And in the car business he is. The former defensive back still has a lot of power in his punch. When he makes a decision, he means it. Founded in 1986, the O'Brien Auto Group is a privately-held hugely successful company, employing 780 people with annual sales which exceeded $550 million in 2007.
Founded in the Pacific Northwest
In Washington, the O'Brien Auto Group owns and operates Lexus of Bellevue, Acura of Seattle, Scion of Kirkland, Toyota of Kirkland, Land Rover of Tacoma, smart Center of Seattle, Volvo of Tacoma, Lexus of Tacoma and Jaguar of Tacoma. On the greener side of the things, O'Brien is the only authorized dealer in Washington for Smart cars. Smart was launched in Europe in 1998, building vehicles in France and selling them through 73 U.S. dealers, heading off the coming trend for fuel-efficient, good looking smaller cars.
"This was a major achievement for any one who wanted to purchase a Smart car, but was unhappy with the high cost and inconvenience of buying a gray market version of the car. Now that's just not a problem anymore," O'Brien said.
"We're happy to be here in Salem. We understand that what people want is a buying experience that is uncomplicated and honestly enjoyable. We've never forgotten who our customer is. People do a lot more shopping online these days and we expect that. Take a look at what is out there, then come on in and we'll make it happen for you."
At a time when the economy has some people unsure about large purchases, O'Brien has seen nothing but growth so far.
"Life gets better. That's our motto, and we share that philosophy. O'Brien is something people can count on. We are devoted to our customers' satisfaction, and the long-term upkeep of their cars. It's what we do best."
The signage is changed out, the O'Brien brand is taking the spotlight and Mike O'Brien says they are ready to show our area what the O'Brien Auto Group is all about.
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