Dealer's 'huge!' commercials get into people's heads
Billy Fuccillo's Kia commercials blanket Cape Coral, Fla.
Just try to get away from Billy Fuccillo in Florida's Fort Myers-Cape Coral market. He won't let you.
In an era that is tilting toward soft-spoken sales pitches and Internet-based social-media relationship marketing, Fuccillo is blowing it out like a brass band. He is everywhere in Cape Coral, running TV spots that seem to flow back-to-back from station to station. Consumers follow his commercials like a reality TV show, even if they don't want to buy a new car.
Since opening Fuccillo Kia of Cape Coral in late 2010, the New York state megadealer has become a media sensation in town -- not always beloved, but definitely on consumers' minds and in their ears.
Fuccillo's hulking 6-foot-4-inch, 270-pound frame reaches out of two-page newspaper spreads. He strides powerfully through TV commercials that run day and night, promising to give away cars. He stands on his sales lot in sunglasses with arms raised heavenward, bellowing about "huge!" deals and "huge!" savings. In many of the spots, he is accompanied by a young blonde who is never identified, causing consumers to write in asking the dealership who she is.
His commercials have spawned YouTube parodies, and the dealership sometimes runs its own bloopers on late-night TV. The spots themselves are all over YouTube; a sampler of Fuccillo giving his trademark "huge" is at https://www.youtube.com/ watch?v=DXRaboSo70A.
Turning up the heat
A normal month's advertising for the Cape Coral store runs between $250,000 and $500,000. But lately, he has turned up the heat.
Fuccillo spent just more than $1 million on advertising for the store in January and $850,000 in March -- almost all of it for the relentless pounding of TV spots.
"I'm definitely old-fashioned when it comes to marketing," Fuccillo says from a quiet corner of the store's service department. "People talk about these new approaches to advertising -- Facebook and all that. I don't even own a computer."
The store has an Internet sales department, he says, "but it's not a big part of what we do.
"I just want to saturate," he says. "I want to be in everybody's mind every minute of the day. You've got to get into their heads."
In January, his nonstop TV spots beckoned consumers to come in to register for one of seven free Kias he promised to give away. He also declared, daredevil style, that he would sell 1,000 new Kias in the month, something he claimed in advertising that no Kia dealer had ever done.
TV viewers followed his progress. Fuccillo ended up selling almost 1,200. And during a noisy televised event in his crowded showroom at the end of the month, he drew names and handed over seven sets of keys.
In the excitement, he threw in an eighth free Kia.
"I got carried away," he says. "All those people were there and the cameras were rolling -- I just felt like doing it."
Giving away a house
He then upped his own ante by giving away a house with a 2012 Kia Soul parked in its driveway on April 2. And just for good measure, he gave away five additional new vehicles during the drawing for the house and Soul. Fuccillo himself drove around Cape Coral to find the three-bedroom/two-bath house and paid for it out of his advertising war chest.
"It cost me $125,000 -- that's an advertising expense," he says. "I spend big on advertising. You need to spend big on advertising and sell Kias in volume. And when you do, Kia is tremendous."
With his home base in the Syracuse, N.Y., area, Fuccillo, 56, owns Fuccillo Automotive Group, which has 20 stores in New York from Buffalo to Albany, including five Hyundai dealerships and three Kia stores. Splashy, heavy TV advertising is what he grew up in the business knowing, after playing tight end for Syracuse University, and it's what he is sticking with, he vows. Heavy TV campaigning will enable him to reach his target of selling 7,500 Kias in Cape Coral this year, he says.
There is method to his madness. Kia Motors America awards inventory based on previous sales volume, and with Kia sales rising, dealers are hungry for inventory. The factory also provides $300 to $350 in co-op advertising per vehicle sold.
"That adds up when you sell 800 cars a month," Fuccillo says.
Adding service bays
But are the TV antics paying off?
Fuccillo says they are. Besides earning a big share of co-op dollars, the campaigns bring 5,000 to 6,000 customers a month into the store, he says. And the TV spots are boosting Fuccillo's service business. He has expanded beyond the walls of the defunct 12-bay Saturn store that he acquired for his sole Florida store to construct a 30-bay service shop next door.
He also divulges another secret weapon: wholesaling used vehicles.
Fuccillo learned the wholesale auto business as a recent college grad in Syracuse. Today, despite the demands of his operations, he still enjoys going to auctions and still personally oversees prep work and reconditioning of vehicles for auction. The flip side of selling 1,600 new and used vehicles in January at the Florida store is that he was awash in trade-ins, with hundreds to take to auction.
"I took them to auction myself," he says. "We made more than $1 million in wholesale profits that month.
"I think a lot of retailers underestimate what you can do on the wholesale side," he adds. "We've had a couple of dealers come through the store to see how we move cars through the system."
'Handling the traffic'
Curiosity seekers are welcome to look all they want, Fuccillo says. But if they are thinking about replicating what he is doing in volume and advertising, they had better man up.
"If they want to come after me, they'd better be strong financially," he warns. "Because what will happen is this: After three or four months of spending $500,000, $600,000 or $800,000 on advertising, they're going to choke.
"You can spend all the money in the world to drive people to your door, but you'd better have the soldiers and the organization to handle it," he says.
"You'd better have people on the floor who know how to keep it moving. You'd better have five closers on the floor. You'd better have three F&I people on duty. Because if you're not handling the traffic and converting it into sales, then you've spent all that money for nothing."
Fuccillo admits he has been spending a lot of time on the Florida store, and his New York operations people have been asking him when he will come back. Among his New York holdings are four Ford stores and Chevrolet, Dodge, Mazda, Toyota and Subaru dealerships.
His son, Billy Fuccillo Jr., a recent University of North Carolina graduate, is learning the ropes to take over the auto group someday.
A recent afternoon in late March found father and son working in tandem at Manheim's Fort Myers auction, the father selling cars on one lane and the son selling cars on another.
Most days, the dealer can be found standing in the Cape Coral showroom greeting customers, hugging them and kissing them, visiting customers in the service department, or filming more TV spots.
But about that mysterious blonde ...
"People watch the commercials just to figure out who she is," Fuccillo says. "And I'm not telling."
Internet banter asks if she is a company manager. Is she Fuccillo's daughter? His young wife? A girlfriend?
"I go out to dinner here and people come up and ask me," Fuccillo says, relishing the South Florida celebrity. "I tell them all the same thing -- she's one of my friends."
You can reach Lindsay Chappell at email@example.com.