From its start in 1931, this family-owned dealership has built its success upon quality service and commitment to the customer.
What started out as a single, small dealership in Chicago’s south suburbs in 1931 has blossomed into a successful and thriving family automobile enterprise spanning much of the Midwest.
Today, brothers Bill and Paul Napleton are part of the third generation. Together, they operate more than 20 locations (and more than 60 Napleton Auto Group dealerships) throughout Illinois, Indiana, Missouri and Wisconsin. Three locations operate in the Rockford region: Napleton Autowerks Rockford, 505 N. Perryville Road, Rockford; Napleton Autowerks Loves Park, 6600 E. Riverside Blvd., Loves Park, Ill.; Napleton Cadillac, 449 N. Perryville Road, Rockford; and Napleton Jaguar Rockford, 6677 E. Riverside Blvd., Rockford.
These dealerships sell eight popular luxury car brands: Cadillac, Subaru, Land Rover, Honda, Audi, Mercedes-Benz, Porsche and Jaguar.
“We’re a family-oriented, privately held business,” says Geoff Feinblatt, multistore general manager of the Rockford region. “We’re progressing into the fourth generation of the Napleton family, and our goal is to impact local families.”
Napleton has been in the Rockford region since 1996, and Feinblatt has been with the organization for nearly 17 years.
“I’ve been privileged to be part of Bill’s and Paul’s organization; they’re hardworking, engaged, down-to-earth business owners,” he says. “They’ve supported my growth and ambitions, while also making our employees feel part of the Napleton family.”
Feinblatt is focused on providing a culture for stability, longevity and growth of his staff.
“We couldn’t have pushed through economic challenges, product constraints, a pandemic and, most recently, a worldwide manufacturing inventory shortage without the dedication of our entire team,” he adds.
The Napleton team helps many customers with something that’s often stressful: car buying. Napleton’s staff works to make the process a seamless and pleasurable experience. Whether it’s in the Rockford area or other states where Napleton has footprints, the staff strives to put the customer first, just as Edward W. Napleton encouraged his team to do when he opened a small DeSoto dealership in 1931.
“Part of our philosophy and culture is ‘one team, one goal,’ which is a collaboration of every team member working together and being aligned for the same vision. That’s to take care of the client,” Feinblatt says. “Putting the customer first has allowed Napleton’s to build new customer relationships and retain their customers’ loyalty for decades.”
Today, each Napleton dealership offers the same services as a traditional dealership – sales of new and pre-owned vehicles, repair and service – and they back it up with a team that aims to connect clients with the right car and keep it on the road.
The service team at Napleton is genuinely dedicated to serving clients, especially given their passion for automobiles.
“We have qualified technicians who are master certified, and they receive updated training each year to retain and maintain that certification,” Feinblatt says. “Plus, we’re proud to be growing our service team with the younger generation through our partnership with Rock Valley College’s automotive department. RVC hires have proven this to be a mutually beneficial partnership over the years. We provide employment while the student is still in the program. By the time they are ready to graduate, students are able to learn about their potential career path with Napleton. We’re blessed to have RVC’s program located so close to our Rockford-area locations.”
Feinblatt became passionate about cars at a young age, inspired by his grandfather, who worked for a supplier of Ford, GM and Chrysler. Something about that Detroit-area plant inspired a lifelong interest for the younger Feinblatt.
“I remember my brother and I as young boys spending summers in Detroit with my grandparents, and we’d talk muscle cars from the ’60s and ’70s, along with new models coming out,” he says. “I was around cars at an early age, and his passion and influence was handed down to me.”
Throughout his career, Feinblatt has worked in most every part of a dealership, from cleaning shop floors, emptying garbage cans and washing cars to parts and service, sales and management.
“I had the opportunity to continue my passion that my grandfather instilled in me,” he says. “I love when that passions leads to our clients’ pride in their purchasing experiences.”
A lot has changed in the industry over the years, and the Napleton staff has been following along. Some people prefer visiting a car dealership, meeting a salesman and test driving their dream vehicle, but these days, more people are opting to make a purchase from the comfort of their own home.
“We’re not just here selling and servicing cars the way car dealerships have for decades, because we’ve established other ways for customers to purchase a vehicle from home and schedule service,” Feinblatt says. “If someone wants a car from us but they live in Madison, Wis., we can deliver a car to their front door. We’re able to offer a full level of service to clients well out of the state, while bringing benefits back to the Rockford area.”
Napleton has also stayed creative with how it reaches clients. Since more consumers are spending time on their phones, texting has emerged as a popular communication tool the staff uses to engage with clients.
“There are still consumers who want to use a phone and make a call, or communicate with email, but texting has really blown everything away,” Feinblatt says. “We can text photos of new cars and repairs, and we can text you a bill and complete payment online. We’re trying to evolve and provide simpler, convenient ways of operating that saves time.”
When someone comes in to shop around, Feinblatt sees them as more than just clients. For generations, customers have constantly visited the dealership for oil changes, repairs and new vehicles. Since turnover on the Napleton staff is extremely low, Feinblatt and his team find themselves talking to previous clients time after time. That repeated interaction has developed bonds of friendship and loyalty.
“My wife and I have become friends with several of our clients,” he says. “We have dinner, we talk about each other’s children, and we get involved with various clubs and local events. We have enjoyed the opportunity to connect with our customers, especially since Rockford is a little big town, compared to the Chicago market. While we immersed ourselves in the community, my wife and I have raised and schooled our children here, as have the majority of our 200 employees.”
For many years, the Napleton family has been very giving in a private manner.
“In 2014, we decided to move forward with being more public and have an increased connection to the community than we had in the past,” Feinblatt says.
He knew his staff would feel more valued if they supported the local community. At the same time, he wanted his staff to build customer relationships outside the dealership. This helped the Napleton team become stronger pillars in the community, which wasn’t always the case.
“The community is very important to us,” Feinblatt says. “Our business conducts business with other local businesses. We use local builders and contractors. And, we do as much other purchasing with Rockford-area businesses as we can.”
One of Feinblatt’s largest connections to the community is through his wife, Stephanie, the executive director of CARE FOR PETS, a local animal welfare nonprofit.
“I thought it would also be a good idea to provide our staff with the ability to participate with different sponsorships and charity events,” Feinblatt says. “Now, our entire team can enjoy giving back to the Rockford area, while we’re also enabling our own clients to participate in different ways.”
Today, engaged Napleton employees are involved with Winnebago County Services, CARE FOR PETS, Nik’s Wish, Spectrum Schools, Mercyhealth Pediatric, collecting food for the Rockford Food Pantry, and supporting the Boys and Girls Club of Rockford, among others.
“It means we do more than just sell and service cars,” Feinblatt says. “We’re an organization that’s filled with great employees who care deeply about both our customers and our community.”
Napleton’s success hasn’t been an accident. And, to stay relevant for the future Feinblatt believes the company must remain open-minded. He also recommends other companies do the same.
“Always be open to learning and communicating with others, whether it’s in your same field or not, because I’ve received some great ideas from leaders who aren’t even in my business,” he says. “And listen to your employees.
They can be an excellent source for improving the operation of your business or organization. Listening to their ideas and being open to change has contributed greatly to our success and can certainly do the same for you.”