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Auto retailing thrives on new. New vehicles. New marketing methods and advertising campaigns. And new blood. Meet the men and women who make up the fourth annual Automotive News listing of 40 Under 40 Retail: 40 up-and-comers who already are making their mark in dealerships. These individuals are applying the lessons of the past with the techniques of today to carry vehicle retailing into the future. And they're delivering astounding results.

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Rik Fregia

AGE:38
POSITION:Vice president, Courtesy Auto Group, Danville, Ill.

Four years after taking over a Buick-GMC dealership that was selling fewer than 300 new and used vehicles a year in Chicago's far suburbs, Rik Fregia has the business up to an annual pace of about 900 units.

An extensive renovation and expansion of the store made it much more appealing to customers. But he says a lot of the growth also stems from changes to improve employees' morale and help them do their jobs -- while also holding them more accountable for their work.

"It's just a different mentality," said Fregia, who serves as general manager of the dealership, Courtesy Buick-GMC in Crystal Lake, Ill. "We changed it from a 'got to' attitude to a 'get to' attitude. We 'get to' go to work. We 'get to' satisfy the customer."

Fregia said he established a more definitive chain of command and set clear expectations, such as a rule that used vehicles must be sold within 60 days. He also got the dealership more involved in community organizations than it was under the previous owner, who had run low on cash and made minimal investments in the store as a result.

In addition to the Buick-GMC dealership, Fregia and his older brother, Ray Fregia Jr., also run a Ford-Lincoln store, a Chrysler-Jeep-Dodge-Ram store and a used-car outlet in Danville, Ill., about 140 miles south of Chicago.

The brothers -- Ray Jr. is president of the group, and Rik is vice president -- have completed multimillion-dollar overhauls at all three dealerships in the past few years. They also created a pair of business development centers to handle inquiries from potential customers more efficiently.

"We saw a huge increase in all our stores after the remodels," Rik Fregia said, "and the BDCs freed up our salespeople to concentrate on product knowledge and prospecting and doing other things."

In the past two years, new- and used-vehicle sales and profits at the three franchised dealerships have risen 30 percent.

Rik Fregia started his automotive career working for a Ford Motor Co. dealership owned by his father, a former Ford regional manager. When Ray Fregia Sr. retired and sold his store, Rik teamed up with his brother, who had recently bought his first dealership. The pair later expanded their business to three stores.

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