Going Local: Pete Hettinger's Custom Auto Sales

 Pete Hettinger shows off a Honda CR-V in the Custom Auto Sales parking lot (Credit: Erik Prenzler)

Pete Hettinger shows off a Honda CR-V in the Custom Auto Sales parking lot (Credit: Erik Prenzler)

Over the next few months, AdaptBN will highlight a local small business every week. Small businesses are the bedrock of the American economy, driving growth both on the national and local level. Entrepreneur Magazine estimates that small businesses account for 60-80% of all jobs in the US. This week’s article highlights Custom Auto Sales, located in Bloomington and owned by Pete Hettinger.

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Pete Hettinger has always loved cars. After graduating from Bloomington High School in 1975, he earned a business agriculture degree at the University of Illinois. While his fiancee was still finishing college, he managed a retail store. “Then my Dad suggested I go to work selling cars and get the 'auto thing' out of my system,” said Pete.

Pete's automotive career started in 1982 at Strickland Chevrolet in Bloomington (then the Chevrolet franchisee in Bloomington). After selling cars at Strickland for a few years, Pete was moved over to the closing office, which handled title documents and financing.

In 1989, Pete moved to Rebbec Pontiac Buick as the finance manager. After 10 years, he decided to “go on my own” and bought Custom Car Care & Automotive Sales, located at the corner of Washington & Clinton in Bloomington. Now the business goes by the name Custom Auto Sales, still detailing vehicles but concentrating on automotive sales.

“I’m not sure there is a best time of the year, but there are slow times,” says Pete. The days before and after a holiday are typically slow. Severe weather can cause car owners to consider  purchasing a newer, more solid, vehicle. “The best part of my job is meeting new and sometimes interesting people” mentions Pete.

 Pete Hettinger of Custom Auto Sales on Washington St. and Clinton St. in Bloomington, IL (Credit: Erik Prenzler)

Pete Hettinger of Custom Auto Sales on Washington St. and Clinton St. in Bloomington, IL (Credit: Erik Prenzler)

Over the years the marketing of cars has changed and consumers have access to all kinds of data on any vehicle. This includes reviews, specifications and owner history via Carfax. “What hasn’t changed as much; people in general.. some are impulse buyers and some are more particular than others,” said Pete.

Despite the typical stereotypes with used car sales, Custom Auto Sales is known for being honest and trustworthy with customers. Across Google, Facebook, Cars.com, and Yellow pages, Custom Car Sales carries a solid 5-star rating.

In spite of advances in digital advertising and data, Pete says that print advertising still reaches a large portion of the population. Pete notes that classified ads in the local newspaper still bring many customers to his door! Custom Auto Sales also has a website with inventory listed for car shoppers to browse before visiting. The majority of his sales are between $5,000 and $15,000 with 175- 200 vehicles sold each year.