Equipped with a new name and location, this car dealership is celebrating a major milestone. Discover why this business remains just as sophisticated, tech-savvy and progressive-minded as the car brand it represents.
To suggest that John Haniotes is a lover of Audi cars is to understate his passion for the brand. The Barrington banker is really more of a loyal evangelist, the sort of driver who tells all of his friends and customers about his cars, and who gathers other Audi drivers for summer car cruise nights.
Including his very first Audi, a 1992 100S sedan, Haniotes has purchased 20 of these vehicles – new and used – over the past 20 years, mostly from the newly relocated and rebranded Audi Hoffman Estates, 1200 W. Golf Road. Although he’s test-driven other cars of competing brands, Haniotes says there’s no comparison between his Audi and the others.
“By this point, it’s really become a brand loyalty,” he says. “It would take a lot for me not to buy an Audi.”
There’s something about this classy, sporty and innovative brand that keeps customers coming back time and again. Since opening its new facility in July, this former Schaumburg dealership is raising its profile even further. Like the luxury brand it represents, Audi Hoffman Estates is looking forward.
“It’s not the car of yesterday, but the car that always gives you something more,” says Viktor Hadjiev, sales manager. “It keeps people excited, because when they come to see something new, there’s actually something to see. It’s not the same car that we built for 10 years, over and over again, and there’s no change.”
Formerly known as Schaumburg Audi, this dynamic dealership celebrated a major milestone this past summer, when it opened a brand-new, 50,000-square-foot facility set on six acres. The new digs are located about a mile west of its previous location, inside a building inspired by an airport terminal. Located close to the road, the building puts its showroom front and center, with 13 brand-new cars gleaming in the streamlined showroom.
“The inventory is pushed off to the side of the building – it’s not just facing the road,” says Hadjiev. “So they see the building, the brand name, and then inside, the first thing they see is the group of new cars. They’re not jumped by sales people right at the door.”
Its maintenance department, too, is all about convenience, with enough room indoors for parking nearly 24 cars.
“When it’s snowing or it’s not so nice outside, we can fit a lot more people inside,” explains Hadjiev. “Or, if they drop off a car or pick up a loaner, all of that is done indoors, so they don’t have to be inconvenienced in the rain, or snow or sleet.” The same goes for customers wanting to test-drive or inspect a new car.
The new facility is impressive, not just because of its many upgrades. It’s one of the first new dealer showrooms Audi has built since the economic recovery began. During an October grand opening celebration, several national and regional executives, including both the president and COO of Audi of America, the central regional executive and the Chicago-area general manager, were present to meet about 350 loyal customers, including Haniotes. In fact, Haniotes’ latest source of pride, a 2014 TT Roadster, was on full display.
“Here’s the president of Audi and all these officials looking at my car, saying how great it looks,” he recalls. “Later, I got a personal thank-you note from the president, for buying the 2014 TT Roadster. How often do you get a note like that from a car company?”
Audi Hoffman Estates has stood out ever since it opened in 1990, as the carmaker’s first standalone dealership. Originally part of the O’Hare Porsche Audi dealership, this franchise was spun off and sold to Michael Hall, who had been an executive for Audi of America, and part of its corporate group for nearly 20 years.
It was the first time Audis were sold independently of other models produced by parent company Volkswagen.
In Schaumburg, the dealership evolved with its brand, eventually overhauling its facility in 2001. Over the next decade, sales increased and Audi added eight new car models; the Schaumburg dealer steadily outgrew its landlocked space. Now located about a mile west on Golf Road, on the site of a former municipal building in Hoffman Estates, the dealership has ample space to stretch out.
“There is additional land that is unused at the moment, that we could expand into for the needs of the future, so we don’t have to move again,” says Hadjiev. “You always have to look ahead 10 years, to what the business would look like, in the ideal world.”
Forward-thinking, progressive technology is built in to the brand, and it’s especially apparent in today’s standard high-tech features. Covering everything from coupes and sedans to SUVs, Audi persistently pioneers new ways to improve the car-driving experience.
Take, for instance, its Quattro system, introduced in 1980 as the first all-wheel drive for a sedan. Quattro is now standard in all Audi models, and it’s not just for slippery road conditions.
“It’s not a system that kicks in when it detects slippage,” says Hadjiev. “It’s a system that works even when you’re turning and accelerating through a corner. It has a surefootedness and inspires confidence in the driver.”
Audi’s also pioneering energy-efficient and high-tech systems onboard, such as distinctive LED headlamps and a European-imported clean-diesel fuel system that’s likely to hit a highway fuel economy of almost 50 miles per gallon. There’s also the new voice-activated Google Earth-integrated navigation system.
“Instead of a map, you actually have the satellite view on Google Earth, and it allows you to have live search if you’re looking for a point of interest of any kind,” says Hadjiev. “You could literally speak out, with voice control like Siri in an iPhone, and you say Woodfield Mall, and it finds the keyword online, so it’s not limited to what’s stored in your system.”
For a luxury car, these models go all-out in the pursuit of quality. “If you see something that looks like wood, it is wood – it’s not an imitation,” says Hadjiev. “The leather is real leather. We don’t use any leatherette or synthetic materials.”
While it’s a convincing buy for singles and families of many ages, Audi’s pricetag is sometimes too big to attract younger consumers. This spring, Audi is expected to release the new A3 sedan, a slightly smaller entry-level luxury car. But don’t let that “entry-level” tag disappoint – it’s still packed with the latest Audi technology.
“It’s designed to appeal to the Y Generation and young people who want that first validation of a luxury premium brand,” says Hadjiev. “And that way, you give them the experience of what it is to own an Audi. As they get older and their needs change, then we have the rest of the lineup – the sports cars and SUVs – for them to feel familiar with, and remain with the brand.”
Just ask Haniotes. He’s owned BMWs, Saabs and Volvos, but he’d long had his eyes on the Audi. “Back in the mid-’80s, the Audi 5000 had always caught my attention,” he says. “There weren’t many dealers nearby then, just one in Hinsdale.”
He wasn’t sure how he felt about owning an import, rather than a domestic, but he couldn’t resist the bug anymore, when he walked into Audi Hoffman Estates. “I drove away and had a unique feeling of quality,” he says.
Since then, he’s owned most everything in the lineup, from sedans to convertibles, Roadsters to the sport wagon. In addition to his new TT Roadster, Haniotes has an S4 sedan for everyday use.
In its new location, Audi Hoffman Estates is in good company. There’s an Infiniti dealer just across the street, and a Mercedes-Benz dealer a little further east. An Acura dealership is also nearby, but Hadjiev welcomes the competition.
“We find it actually good that we have them nearby, because it allows the customer to go quickly from one to another and compare not just the brand that they’re buying, but the service that they’ll get at the dealership,” he says.
And, he finds that Audi buyers have done extensive research before walking into a dealership. By the time they’ve met with a salesman, they know what to expect, Hadjiev says, and at this particular location, they’ll find a no-haggle relationship.
“We want to separate ourselves from the general car-buying experience that is haunting the industry, where there’s going to be this hassle and haggling and going back and forth for no reason,” says Hadjiev. “When you’re spending this kind of money, you don’t want to deal with that kind of thing, and frankly, we don’t want to deal with it, either.”
If it’s an easy relationship that gets a car-buyer in the door, then it’s a friendly service staff that keeps them coming back. In addition to routine maintenance and service on the car, Audi Hoffman Estates offers free Wi-Fi in the waiting room, free car washes for customers and a fleet of brand-new Audi loaner cars, when customers can’t wait for service.
“We give them every reason in the world to keep the car in top condition, mechanically and aesthetically,” Hadjiev says. “Because at the end of the day, it’ll give you the best possible resale when you’re ready to move on to the next car.”
Haniotes hasn’t personally washed a car in 20 years – he lets his dealership do that. And he hasn’t paid for maintenance, either, thanks to a solid service package. And, because he’s been such a consistent customer, Haniotes has enjoyed special Audi events, as a member of the exclusive Audi Club. Recently, he enjoyed a day driving various models with professional instructors at a racetrack in Joliet.
For all the cars he’s ever owned, he still favors a model he recently traded in.
“Talk about remorse,” he laughs. “Of all the cars, it was the ’05 TT Roadster. It was a special model, the S-line, like BMW has the M-series. It was a 3.2-liter performance engine, with Quattro drive. I bought it certified used, and of all the cars I’ve had, that was the most fun.”
Then again, Audi owners will always tell you that – the cars are just fun to drive.
“I like the way they look, I like the way they drive, because it makes you excited to be behind the wheel,” says Hadjiev, who owns an A6 clean diesel sedan. “When you drive around a corner with a little higher speed – within the limits, of course – it feels good to know the car grips and it gives you the confidence of driving something a little more sporty. And all of the other perks that come with it – like the great gas mileage, and the cool-looking headlights – are just icing on the cake.”