they can bring it back within that two-day period.”
Fitzpatrick, an Ohio University graduate with a history degree, was a former school teacher before pursuing a career in the automobile industry. He started out in the car business in 1968, when Chrysler hired him as a sales management trainee in Los Angeles. But it is his teaching experience that shapes his desire to provide opportunities and support for budding high school students and graduates interested in technological careers within car dealerships.
Fitzpatrick believes the next generation of young minority dealers needs to become more active in politics and economic issues that affect all dealerships. He explains that “the same laws that are going into effect for our neighbor dealers are the same for us.”
“We have different programs with BMW where they train young technicians,” explains Fitzpatrick, who notes the program’s graduates are in high demand among car dealers. Young people attend BMW’s Phoenix-based training schools for one year. After graduating, they are qualified by BMW to be a level-one technician. “We actually buy those technicians,” says Fitzpatrick. “It costs us $9,000 for a trained technician. We become an outlet for them, and they provide us with the technical knowledge to work on our cars.”
Fitzpatrick understands that operating a successful dealership means finding the right balance between business, pleasure, and family. His wife Bertha, 59, who reminds him that family is a priority, already planned his “semi-surprise” birthday dinner later that evening (a family member slipped up and revealed the surprise).
“Some of us are getting older now and we’re looking for the next generation,” says Fitzpatrick, who believes there are a couple of ways to prepare for succession. One way is by choosing competent family members to carry on the business; the other is to look for talented young men and women interested in the car dealership business.
Fitzpatrick already made a solid investment to ensure the future growth of his company. He hired his sons Sean, 30, and Ryan, 28, as assistant managers at two of his Modesto dealerships. Sean, the assistant parts manager at Valley BMW, says his father has a great vision for the company’s future. “My goal is to learn as much as I can about the business in order to help him run the operation,” he says. As the assistant general manager at Valley Lexus, Ryan describes his father’s management style as demanding, but fair. “Working with my father allows me to have a better understanding of the auto industry and gives me a greater appreciation for what he’s accomplished.”
For the Fitzpatrick Dealership Group, expansion plans are already in the works. The Valley Lexus site is set to relocate to a newer, bigger facility in Modesto. Once the planning stage is finalized, the new $11 million dealership is expected to open in summer 2007. Fitzpatrick says much of the company’s future plans depend on what his sons want to do with the business. For now, all roads are pointing to a profitable outlook for this luxury import