Pumping The Brakes

B.E. auto dealers used cost cutting and customer service to avoid being wrecked by a tough economy

of January, the company implemented a full-scale business development center, staffed with a manager and four employees who develop business from setting service appointments, to contacting potential customers. The company partially credits this new practice for exceeding sales goals each month. “NADA’s ratio on kept sales appointments closed in the sales department is 20% — 25%, and ours was 40% in January and 50% in February,” says Eddie Corley Jr.

Having the right people is what Ed Fitzpatrick credits with the success of Fitzpatrick Dealership Group (No. 43 on the BE AUTO DEALER 100 list with $63.5 million in sales). With Valley Lexus and Valley BMW of Modesto, California and Coliseum Lexus of Oakland, Fitzpatrick made it seem as if 2002 had been the “year of the upscale car.” Says Fitzpatrick, “I interview each of the managers and try to instill in them the way I believe business should be conducted; then [the managers] look for people who can fit that mold.” He looks for dependability and reliability, which he says create customer confidence. “I’ve had Valley Lexus for six years, and people say they have bought three or four cars from that dealership in that time. Not only do they like the car, but they have a relationship with the people who work there.”

Minorities of every stripe may soon have better opportunities to own car dealerships. The National Association of Minority Automobile Dealers (NAMAD) got tired of the numbers: Ethnic minorities are 32% of the population, purchase 15% of new and certified used cars and trucks, but represent less than 5% of majority owners of dealerships. NAMAD has asked every manufacturer to commit to an initial goal of 15% majority ownership of the retail network by ethnic minorities (see www.namad.org for details). This year, the request appears to have teeth: NAMAD has approached the manufacturers with the fewest ethnic minority dealers and promised to educate the buying public — and foment boycotts — if the manufacturers fail to meet the challenge. The first meeting — with Audi — was a success, according to NAMAD President Sheila Vaden-Williams. NAMAD got the auto dealer to sign a Memorandum of Understanding on Feb. 6, 2003. The agreement means that the two organizations would partner to increase minority dealerships to a minimum of 15%. Audi also agreed to meet with representatives of NAMAD once each month to identify ownership opportunities for minorities.
2003 Top 10 Growth Leaders



2002 Sales*

2001 Sales*

% Increase

Panhandle Automotive Inc. Crestview, FL 150.000 78.000 92.3
Mike Pruitt Automotive Group Akron, OH 83.000 47.000 76.6
Classic Pontiac-Buick-GMC Hicksville, NY 36.882 22.206 66.1
Kenya Auto Enterprises Evans, GA 66.877 40.336 65.8
New Castle Ford-Lincoln-Mercury Inc. New Castle, IN 27.500 19.000 44.7
Cross Road Chrysler- Jeep Inc. Oklahoma City, OK 42.420 30.750 Pages: 1 2 3 4 5