Zimbrick is first at the finish line

From its first appearance on our Best of Madison list — “Best Auto Mechanic” in 1993 — to six golds in 2021 alone, Zimbrick has snagged a “best of” award 61 times.
Group of people in a field at a zimbrick lot
Courtesy of Zimbrick
John Zimbrick first launched the business in 1965 when he became owner of the Buick-Opel shop. That same year, a group gathered for the groundbreaking of the Fish Hatchery Road location.

From its first appearance on our Best of Madison list — “Best Auto Mechanic” in 1993 — to six golds in 2021 alone, Zimbrick has snagged a “best of” award 61 times. From best luxury dealer to best used dealer and more than a dozen categories in between, voters have continually chosen Zimbrick. If you ask Tom Zimbrick — the 65-year-old, second-generation co-owner who, when he decided to change careers and join the family business, was required by his Depression-era parents to start on the sales floor despite having a law degree — the formula for their success is the same as it was when his dad John Zimbrick first became owner of the Buick-Opel shop in 1965: “If I take care of the employees, employees take care of the customer and the customer takes care of us,” Zimbrick says.

Zimbrick has grown to nearly 1,000 employees across eight campuses representing 16 brands. The company has faced many challenges over the years, including the 2008 recession, labor shortages and supply chain issues, but Zimbrick credits his employees for always helping improve operations and his parents for instilling company values from the start. When the pandemic hit, Zimbrick shut the company down for two weeks — but he paid all employees, and he also covered their health premiums for a month. “It was the right thing to do,” he says. He also continues the profit-sharing program his dad personally borrowed $10,000 to start in 1965 — today, a third of company profits get paid out to employees. “In our business, 50% turnover is the norm. We have 18% turnover [for full-time employees],” Zimbrick says, and that translates to customer relationships. “People like dealing with the same people year after year; They build up a lot of trust.” Zimbrick calls customer interactions “moments of truth,” and in 2020, the company sold more than 18,000 new and used cars and wrote more than 200,000 service and repair tickets. That’s a whole lot of moments of truth — and they help explain why Madison Magazine readers think of Zimbrick every time voting season rolls around.

five people in front of a saturn sign

When the business purchased the Saturn franchise, the Zimbrick family (John Zimbrick pictured below far right) gathered to plant a tree, which was Saturn’s tradition. Courtesy of Zimbrick

Zimbrick’s parents still live in Madison. They’re both well into their 90s now, and he says he and his dad still talk shop every day. “He’s an extremely humble person, but he’s amazed … and I know he’s very proud,” Zimbrick says. His father always asks first how the profit-sharing plan is going for the employees and, without fail, one last thing: “‘How many Buicks did we sell?’ Because that was the girl that brought him to the dance.”

Read more about the Best of Madison Legacy Awards here.

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