Six decades after beginning his career in the automobile industry by cleaning cars, Richard Schepel has become a lauded name in Northwest Indiana’s auto sales.
Schepel, 81, is the president of Schepel Buick-GMC Inc. Despite his retirement from the dealership's everyday operation, he remains involved through his legacy of providing superior customer service, says Bert Wories, the company’s chief financial officer who also is Schepel’s son-in-law.
“I started my career in automobile sales because of my father’s involvement in the auto industry and my love for the American automobile ever since I was a young boy,” said Schepel, adding that as a youngster he would always buy car magazines.
After Schepel completed U.S. Army service in the mid-1950’s, he landed a job cleaning cars at a Lansing used car dealer. He soon became a used car salesman for the business, and eventually became a part-then-sole owner of the car lot, which did business as “Schepel & May.”
In 1968, Schepel knew his future involved selling new autos as well as used cars and he bought the former Ray Shem Buick in Crown Point using savings from his first venture.
“It was a failing dealership and he (Schepel) had an understanding with Buick that he could buy it if he would build a new facility in two years,” says Wories who began working for Schepel in 1969. “They (Buick) were excited because they wanted someone successful to take it over.”
And Schepel was successful, very successful.
Within a couple of years he became the Number 1 Buick dealer in the Chicago zone. New vehicle sales eventually grew from 100 per year to more than 1,900.
In 1987, Schepel acquired the GMC Light Truck franchise and the dealership name was changed to Schepel Buick-GMC Truck Inc.
Wories and Buick credit the dealership's success to Schepel’s devotion to customer satisfaction. In 1997, Buick used his customer service approach in a film distributed to Buick dealerships nationwide.
During his career, General Motors has presented Schepel with numerous awards including Buick’s Best In Class, GMC’s 5 Star General, Buick’s Select Dealer, GMC’s Leader of Distinction, and Buick’s Image of Excellence.
A Dyer resident, Schepel has devoted the same commitment to his family and his community as he has to his business. He and Gertrude, his wife of more than 58 years, have two daughters: Barbara and Debra, and five grandchildren. They are active in their local church, Redeemer United Reformed Church, where Schepel has served as a deacon, and also chairman of the Building & Grounds committee.
Through his leadership, his dealership has been active in local charities.
“Our company has always supported local charities because we believe in the people of Northwest Indiana,” Schepel says. “Our business has been blessed by this community. We, in turn, feel called to give back to organizations that improve the lives of citizens in our area.”