Morgantown car dealer offers more than autos - WBOY.com: Clarksburg, Morgantown: News, Sports, Weather

Morgantown car dealer offers more than autos

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By CYNTHIA McCLOUD
For The State Journal

John Howard Motors in Morgantown now sells more than cars and service. 

The dealership has an Allstate insurance agency in its Subaru showroom on the Mileground.

"Dealership owner Randy Buzzo is also the agency owner and fully licensed agent," said Tonya McDonough, the John Howard Insurance Services manager. "It's a separate legal business entity, but it's the same employer."

The Allstate agency opened Dec. 1 on the Subaru showroom floor. The agents keep the same hours as the dealership: 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Friday and 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. each Saturday.

"The beautiful part is we're here to verify insurance for customers," said McDonough, who has been a licensed agent for more than 20 years. "It keeps the customer from having to leave to finish the car-buying process."

Typically, car buyers have to go to their insurance agencies to update their policies before driving the cars off the lot. The agent has to verify a new policy and send a declaration of insurance page to the dealership before the owner can take possession. Having an agent on site to assist Allstate customers shortens the time between buying a car and getting it insured. It streamlines the car-buying process even more for customers who, these days, are shopping insurance quotes and buy policies on their smartphones. 

"If you get off work at 5 and go to buy a car, you can't call your (off-site) agent to ask if your insurance will carry over and if you have full coverage because their office is closed," McDonough said. "The entire time the dealership is open we have a licensed agent here. It's a win-win."

Allstate approached John Howard Motors about the arrangement, she said. 

Allstate launched a dealer services program that allows auto dealers to open Allstate agencies in their showrooms in February 2012. 

"I think it sounds like a great idea because it's a one-stop shopping opportunity," said Ruth Lemmon, president of the West Virginia Auto & Truck Dealers Association.

She said she likes that there's an insurance agent on the grounds during the same hours the dealership is open.

"That's been a problem we have had, trying to verify insurance or someone who comes in and is buying a car who doesn't have insurance," she said. "This isn't high-pressure; it's just, ‘this is what's available to you.' 

"It's just an attempt to make the buying process a lot smoother an issue."

She said she's familiar with the Fitzgerald Auto Malls in the Maryland and Washington, D.C. areas that also have Allstate agencies in their dealerships. 

"Anything Jack Fitzgerald does is a good business practice," Lemmon said.

Allstate said the arrangement is a novel sales approach but at least one company beat it to the idea four years earlier.

In 2008 in Missouri, "Insurance Journal" reported, St. Louis-based Suntrup Automotive partnered with Equity One Franchisors LLC of GlobalGreen Insurance Agency to offer customers access to insurance services through the dealership.

The John Howard Motors agency is the only Allstate agency located in a dealership in West Virginia, said Allstate spokesman Adam Polak.

"We're definitely interested in adding more," Polak said. "The thing that's exciting for us is these dealerships are great local brands. They're known to local folks and trusted by local folks and it's a nice natural relationship to bring in a trusted brand like Allstate.

"We want to be there to take care of customers how they want to be taken care of," he said. "It's very convenient for customers."

There are 85 dealer agencies across the country, Polak said. In addition to car insurance, they also write other kinds of policies, including life and home coverage. 

"There's no difference between them and any other Allstate agency," he said.