In February 2020, just weeks before Delaware’s governor shut down all “nonessential” businesses in the state because of COVID, Santosh Viswanathan opened the doors of Lakeshore Chrysler Dodge Jeep RAM Seaford, the first new dealership franchise in the city in decades.
Viswanathan said, “I had enough experience to run the Seaford business as opposed to a rookie who would have to try to figure it out on the go. With 30 years of dealership management experience, I was able to just run with it.”
Turning to technology and online sales helped. Viswanathan said his employees are cross-trained and encouraged to embrace technology, “so these times are not too challenging for us because we’ve always done it this way in some shape or form.”
His methods work. “We are driven to serve,” Viswanathan said. “In everything we do, our customers come first. Out of 270 dealerships in the Washington region, our dealership consistently hits the highest mark for customer satisfaction. Our scores are in the top five percent.”
He continued, “Whether you are buying a brand-new vehicle or a pre-owned car or truck, our sales team has you covered. We also have the powerful commercial trucks your business needs to succeed, like the heavy duty RAM 2500 and the Ford Super Duty trucks.
“If you need to figure out how to finance your purchase, our finance team will be more than happy to help. Our sales team specializes in getting people financed even if they’ve had some blemishes in their credit histories, which is common for many people, with what we’ve gone through the last couple of years. We want to make car shopping stress-free.”
Viswanathan added, “All of us here at Lakeshore CDJR Seaford love a good challenge. This includes our service team members, who are ready to diagnose and repair all Chrysler, Dodge, Jeep and Ram vehicles. We have a full staffed service department staffed by factory-trained and certified technicians who also service all makes and models such as Ford, Toyota, Honda, Buick, Chevrolet, BMW, Maserati and Alfa Romeo! We offer free pick up and drop off.”
Viswanathan himself is no stranger to challenges. He came to the United States at age 17 to attend college and eventually graduated with a degree in finance from the Perdue School of Business at Salisbury University. Viswanathan began his career in banking at Second National Bank in Salisbury and his bank was one of many hit by the savings and loan crisis in 1991. He then switched to the automobile industry and quickly rose from finance to sales manager to general manager before partnering with Bill Willis at Willis Ford Smyrna, where he is currently the managing partner.
In 2019, he was one of 49 franchised dealers out of 17,000 nationwide to be nominated for the TIME Dealer of the Year Award, one of the automobile industry’s most prestigious and highly coveted honors. Recipients are among the nation’s most successful auto dealers who demonstrate strong business acumen and a long-standing commitment to community service. Viswanathan’s philanthropic activities include supporting local food banks and domestic violence shelters.
As chairman of the Legislative Affairs Committee for the Delaware Automobile and Truck Dealers Association, Viswanathan is leading the charge in the Delaware legislature to represent the interests of the Delaware Franchise Automobile Dealers.
Viswanathan said it was Fiat Chrysler Automobiles who called him, three years ago, to ask him to open a dealership in southern Delaware. They had heard about him and wanted him to represent them. At first he thought it was a scam. “I almost hung up,” he said in a recent article by the National Automobile Dealers Association. But within six months, he opened Lakeshore CJDR Seaford. The pandemic, supply chain problems — particularly the shortage in computer chips for new vehicles — and the economy in general have been challenging, but Viswanathan perseveres. “Everything I did I had to start on my own,” he said. “Doing it the way I did, I put everything on the line, so it has to work. That was always my mentality. Losing was not an option.”
Visit Lakeshore CDJR Seaford online at www.lakeshorecdjr.com or in person at 22586 Sussex Hwy. The sales department is open from 8:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday and until 4 p.m. on Saturdays. For more information, call 302-990-3099.