Daniel C. Toomey knows he can't beat the country's top-selling Hyundai dealership, just 20 miles away from his store.
Toomey has more than tripled sales at Advantage Hyundai in Hicksville, N.Y., since he became general manager in mid-2008, to 2,840 vehicles, making it the brand's 10th biggest store. Still, that's considerably fewer than the 6,000-plus vehicles sold by arch-rival Atlantic Hyundai in West Islip, N.Y. That store's general manager is his father, Daniel Toomey.
The Toomeys don't have a stake in the stores they run. Both Hyundai dealerships are part of Atlantic Automotive Group, of West Islip, which owns 20 stores on Long Island.
The younger Toomey went to work for the Atlantic group right out of college in 2004. He worked at Atlantic Hyundai for three years under his father and was promoted to sales manager. He also put in brief stints at the group's Honda and Toyota dealerships as a finance manager.
Advantage Hyundai was in the red and sold only 889 vehicles the year Toomey was appointed general manager. In 2009, his first full year at the helm, sales rose to 2,020 units, he says. He quickly realized he couldn't undercut the competition on price "so we had to give customers value," he says. "When I got here there was a lot of service business, but we weren't selling a lot of cars. I figured I could convert the service business with customer care."
To lure more customers, he began offering freebies, such as free car washes for the life of the vehicle. The dealership hired a masseuse to give 15-minute massages and free manicures. "People scheduled their service around her," he says.
The dealership now is in the black. Some months, the store's profitability approaches that of the dealership his father runs "because we run leaner and are a healthier dealership," Toomey says. "It is a friendly rivalry," he says. "They do huge promotions. We offer the more personal touch."
Toomey sells more high-end models -- the Genesis and Equus -- than his father. "I saw an opportunity and had special people trained to sell them. And this is a little more of a classier dealership." Potential buyers can take either car home for a day or two "to see how it looks in the driveway," he says.
Toomey wants to increase sales to 4,000 units annually in the next two to three years. But he insists that the store has to continue offering the one-on-one experience "so we can personally touch all the customers."
-- Diana T. Kurylko