Boston Globe, Front Page of the Automotive Section
Bill Griffith for The Boston Globe
Deb Brewster visited Planet Subaru in Hanover back in 2003 to look at a
Forester for transporting her rowing shell. She not only bought the car but also
in the process, sold herself so well, the dealership offered her a job selling
That's a little like former Patriot owner Victor Kiam's advertising slogan,
"I liked the shaver so much, I bought the company [Remington Razors]."
"I've done a lot of things," says Brewster, "but sell cars? When they asked
me if I'd ever thought about it, I said it's not on the list of things I want to
Brewster has a degree in biochemistry and had an established career as a
doula, someone who provides emotional support during childbirth. "When I first
started as a doula, we were called labor support. Most people thought I worked
for a labor union," she says. In a way, she did, serving as president of the
group's fledgling national organization.
But being on call for 18 years had exacted a toll; so had the recovery
process after staying up all night.
It also was at the time when Brewster's older daughter was heading off to
college so she thought, "Let's check this automotive thing out. I met everyone
and shadowed them and realized, 'I can do this.'"
"At Planet Subaru, we pride ourselves in being an un-dealership," says
co-owner Jeff Morrill. "We only hire people who've never sold cars before. We
want to be different from the stereotype. My brother John, who runs our Chrysler
Jeep and Dodge dealership in Franklin, says, 'Subaru is a status symbol for
people who don't like status symbols.' "
Brewster fit the un-stereotype. "This is a fun place to work. We've got a
beautiful facility and a great product. People here have interesting backgrounds
She arrived as the internet was becoming a major player in car sales and soon
became a player herself, selling 227 new cars and 123 used cars in 2005 to
become the top-selling Subaru salesperson in New England. She's kept up the
pace, remaining in the Top 10 or 15 every year since.
"My role here evolved with the internet's role in car sales," she says. "The
internet replaced a lot of driving around to dealerships. It's a whole new way
of shopping for a car.
"The one thing I always try to convey to people is that there are still
humans on the other end of the sale. You never expect anyone to buy a car if
you're not competitive on price. But an automobile is a big purchase. It's
important to be sure the vehicle fits your needs."
Subaru buyers, as a group, tend to be extremely environmentally conscious.
"When people realize our environmental focus, they tend to come a long way to
see us," says Brewster. Half of the dealership's 11-acre site is planted in
hardy grass and wildflowers that don't require watering. The security "fence" is
a sturdy barrier of black raspberry and other thorn bushes. The buildings are
energy efficient with passive solar heating, windows that actually open, and
highly efficient lighting systems.
"Those things are important to Subaru buyers," says Brewster. "People come
from a distance, including one guy who drives up from Staten Island, N.Y., for
service several times a year."
As the company's internet gatekeeper, Brewster finds herself shipping cars
all over the country, often from the used car inventory. She meets prospective
customers online. "Both the buyer and I understand this is a big purchase," she
says. "I help them see the vehicle, both with words and lots of photos. I try to
get a clear photo of even the tiniest flaw because any used car has some, and we
don't want any surprises."
On a recent "quiet" Monday, Brewster fielded 10 new leads from the internet,
exchanged emails with 18 other customers, sent out 41 emails of her own, made 80
outbound phone calls, and fielded 11 incoming calls.
Several of the outgoing calls were to customers who'd referred friends who
bought cars. "There's nothing like word-of-mouth support," says Brewster. "One
of the things we do here is try to give customers some perks, such as loaner
cars, free tires for life, and gift certificates for referrals. I love making
the call to ask a customer who made a referral whether they want a gift
certificate for dinner or one for service here."
"This business surprises me every day," she says. "I love dealing with
Especially when she greets someone who's just come in the door and discovers
it's someone she's been exchanging emails with for weeks. One imagines the
feeling is mutual.
Would you like to work with Deb on your next vehicle purchase? Click to see our new inventory or pre-owned inventory! Or, send Deb an email.
To read other news stories about Planet and its special team, click here.
Planet Subaru. Your unDealership.