Matthew C. Haiken was still in college when he started attending NADA 20 Group meetings for Volvo dealers.
In June 2005, his father, Leonard, handed him the family Volvo dealership, Prestige Imports Inc., in East Hanover, N.J. It's the family's only franchise. His father opened it in 1979.
"I grew up in the business, working in the lot and in detail and getting cars ready," Haiken says.
Haiken has been growing the business. New-vehicle sales increased from 511 units in 2008 to 755 last year. He has come close to his goal of becoming the country's top-selling Volvo dealer. Last year, Prestige was No. 1 on Dec. 31 until 11:59 p.m. when a competing dealership in Long Island, N.Y., added just enough units to its year-end report to cinch the title, Haiken says.
"We're still in the top five nearly every year," he says. "So far this year, we're No. 3."
To grow sales, he says, "I pushed our digital marketing to the modern ages."
Most of the store's advertising is digital. "We have a great online reputation," Haiken says. Last year, the store was the nation's top-rated Volvo dealership on dealerrater.com, based on customers' reviews.
He also publishes an Internet newsletter, engages in Internet chat and pays for placement on search engines. "The Web is my No. 1 priority," he says.
Although his father is still an adviser, Haiken says he runs the store and deals with Volvo Cars of North America. He has been on the Volvo Retail Advisory Board for the past two years.
Since he took over Prestige Imports, the dealership won the Volvo President's Club award in 2009 and 2010. Volvo gives the award to stores based on sales volume and customer satisfaction. The store failed to win the award in 2011 but Haiken is determined that won't happen again. "I want to win because it represents the best dealers in the country," he says. "It is based on customer satisfaction and that drives us tremendously."
-- Diana T. Kurylko