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Hooman Nissani

Age: 33
Hooman Automotive Group (Toyota-Nissan)
Long Beach, Calif.

Hooman Nissani is living the American dream.

Straight out of high school and with no family background in the automotive industry, Nissani started his career as a car salesman. By age 24, he had acquired a GM store. By age 31, he had added Toyota and Nissan dealerships in the hypercompetitive Los Angeles market.

It started when Nissani went to Lexus of Beverly Hills to buy a car. He had done so much research that the impressed salesman sent him to the general sales manager to do the deal, who then offered Nissani a job at the nearby Nissan store.

Nissani, barely 18, quickly hit 50 sales a month, putting the money away while still living with his parents. Within five years, he had saved $2.8 million. With a team of backers, Nissani bought a downtrodden Buick-Pontiac-GMC store in Culver City in 2003.

"I was young. I had never been a general manager. But when GM looked at my energy and what I had done, they gave me the opportunity," Nissani says. "Other dealers thought I got the store from my dad, but my dad is in real estate, not the car business."

Within 60 days, his store's sales had doubled. Within two years, volume had soared eightfold. Nissani used profits from separate real estate investments to buy Long Beach Toyota in 2008, which was slumping against tough local competition. The store became one of Toyota's fastest-growing dealerships, jumping from No. 72 in sales in the L.A. region to the mid-30s, with more than 200 employees.

When GM soured, Nissani dumped the Culver City store and leased the land to a neighboring Chevrolet dealer. In 2010, Nissani acquired a shuttered Nissan dealership in nearby Signal Hill, which now has 100 employees.

Nissani's secret? Customer loyalty.

Both dealerships have a VIP program in which every new-car buyer, for as long as he or she owns the vehicle, gets free oil changes, tires, car washes and access to a 200-car loaner fleet for anybody whose service takes more than two hours.

"Nobody wants to sit around for service." Nissani says. "So we treat Toyota customers like Lexus."

-- Mark Rechtin

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