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September 21, 2013

Five Star Subaru keeps local focus

By Cathy B. Koplen Contributing Writer
The Daily Star

---- — Five Star Subaru in Oneonta is a business that reflects the values of upstate life, according to the owners of the dealership.

Blaine Jennings and Ben Guenther purchased the Subaru dealership in 2005. Both men have an extensive background in the automotive business.

“We became friends in about 1989,” Guenther said. “We were both in the car business, and when this opportunity came available in 2005, we decided we would go into partnership. We had worked the business long enough to know what worked in a dealership — more important, and what didn’t work.”

Guenther had a wholesale automobile business and Jennings had just sold a used car business when the Subaru dealership was offered for sale.

“The Subaru really flourishes here in this area,” Jennings said “There is a lot of brand loyalty. The company listens to the consumer. Subaru has met the demands of the consumer. The company changes slowly, deliberately, but when they change, they change for the better.”

Both men believe in the product they sell. They said they feel like Subaru is a quality automobile. In their community involvement and in the advertising done for Subaru, the Oneonta area is foremost in their minds.

Their television commercials either have dogs in a Subaru or they are taped in front of an Oneonta-area vista.

“We always get someone in here who wants to tell us a story about where the commercials are,” Guenther said. “People here have a pride about the area. It is a good area to live in.”

Guenther is originally from Rhode Island. He married an Oneonta native and has lived here for most of his life. Jennings was born and raised in Oneonta. They both have children who are making the decision either to stay in Oneonta or relocate somewhere new.

“We were just talking about that,” Guenther said Tuesday in an interview. “My daughter is married and she wants to live here. Blaine’s daughter is in college right now and she want to leave the area.”

Five Star Subaru sponsors some of the entertainment venues as well as different nonprofit and educational entities. The company was one of the primary sponsors of the recent America concert held at Damaschke Field.

“That was a great concert,” Guenther said. “A lot of people came out and they milled around talking to each other listening to the music of America. It was exactly what we had envisioned.”

The automobile industry has changed over the years as have the customers. The cars have evolved to offer better fuel efficiency and safer road worthiness. They have also become much more complex, using computers to regulate the internal systems.

The customer has changed as well. They have become much savvier. The average Subaru customer will have researched what they want and compared alternatives before coming onto the dealership lot.

“We are old school,” Guenther said. “We work the business; we are always at work. It is strange to think about taking lunch or vacation. Our minds are always here. We do not want to miss anything.”