Columbia auto dealer now offers insurance while you wait

Car dealerships have tried some unique things over the years to attract customers, from offering free doughnuts to opening in-house nail salons.

But a new program debuting at Columbia car dealership Love Chevrolet is hoping to move past the gimmicks to offer an arguably more practical service – insurance.

Last week, Love Chevrolet and the Allstate Insurance Company partnered to open a new agency inside the dealership on Parkridge Drive in Irmo that will sell a full-range of insurance products, including automotive, home and life insurance. Called Love Insurance and Financial Services, the agency is the first of its kind in South Carolina and is designed to create a one-stop shop for customers to buy and insure a car.

“This gives them the opportunity to kind of kill two birds with one stone,” said Michael Love, President of Love Automotive.

The Love Chevrolet office is one of the first to open since Allstate finished a pilot program that opened agencies in 11 dealerships across the country during the past two years. The pilot program was successful, and now Allstate is expanding the model to other dealerships like Love Chevrolet.

The dealership has hired two licensed professionals to work at the office, which is located near the back of the showroom next to a waiting area for customers having their car serviced in the adjacent auto shop.

Love said he first heard of the program through a friend who runs a car dealership in Florida and contacted Allstate about participating soon after. He said he sees the new service as another way to develop long-term relationships with customers.

“Our whole goal is to strengthen our relationships and to build more repeat and referral business,” he said. “It’s kind of a cradle-to-grave kind of philosophy.”

Agency manager Chris Petty said customers have responded positively to the office and that the agency has provided 27 insurance quotes since opening July 1.

The office is open the same days and hours as the dealership, until 7 p.m. weekdays and 6 p.m. on Saturdays, which Petty said would give customers a greater window of time to shop than at most other insurance agencies.

For now, the agency is only at Love Chevrolet, but an additional office is scheduled to open at the Love Buick GMC dealership on Saturn Parkway near Harbison in October. There also are plans to open a satellite office at the Love Mitsubishi dealership on Knox Abbot Drive in Cayce.

“Our big thing is taking care of customers, and this is a way we can do that,” Petty said.