By Diane Y. Welch
When the Herman Cook Volkswagen dealership opened in Encinitas in 1967 it overlooked vast open space where bird of paradise plants were plentiful. A wrecking yard and a dump were directly to the east on Encinitas Boulevard where Village Park was later developed.
The scene is quite different today with the boulevard at the intersection of El Camino Real bustling with businesses and with a marked increase in traffic.
What has not changed, however, is the quality of Herman Cook’s automobiles, its customer service, and the fact that the Cook family still owns and operates the dealership which services North County and coastal cities just to the south.
Now run by Herman’s son, Dennis Cook, the dealership is looking forward to the launch of two new VW models, available next month: the Passat and the Beetle, each redesigned to fit today’s markets, with improved quality and fuel efficiency.
“This Passat, which is markedly different from the previous models yet costs about $6,000 less than its predecessor, is only going to be sold in the USA and Canada, and is made in the brand new VW factory that recently opened in Chattanooga, Tenn.,” said Cook. A state-of-the-art facility, the factory is the greenest factory in the world. “It even captures rainwater off the roof for reuse,” he remarked.
Designed from the ground up, the Passat will be priced competitively, comparable with other mid-size cars like Honda Accord and the Toyota Camry. “It starts at $19,995, so we expect it to be tremendously successful,” Cook explained. There will be a diesel version that will get 43 miles to the gallon and will go 95 miles on a tank of fuel.
Launching right behind the Passat is the Beetle, now with a sportier look that will be appealing to a more general market. “I have described it as a cross between an Audi TT and an old Porsche Sportster,” Cook said. The roof is much lower as is the window line and it has a longer front end, although it still retains the signature characteristics of the original Beetle.
Despite the lagging economy, Volkswagen has bucked the recent automotive market downtrend by, month after month, showing considerable improvement in sales. “We’ve done the same here [at the dealership] and it’s our belief that once we receive the Passats and the Beetles we’ll have a more full line of cars and continue to see good sales,” Cook predicted. The dealership’s inventory also includes the EOS, Jetta TDI, VW Golf, VW GTI, Routan, Tiguan, Touareg and more, and several certified used vehicles.
Cook’s own involvement with his father’s dealership began when he was just 13 years old, working during school vacation. After he graduated from San Diego State University, he worked full time and then bought out his father’s business interest in 1980. Connor, Cook’s youngest son, is carrying on the tradition, working as manager in the finance department.
Active in the Encinitas community, Cook has been on the board of the YMCA and an Encinitas Rotarian for over 25 years. Together with his wife, Susan, they founded the Encinitas Rotary Cup Soccer tournament, which has given more than $1 million back into the community and just marked its 23rd anniversary. “Being involved in the community has always been important to us,” Cook said.