Selling luxury vehicles in the New York metropolitan area is highly competitive. Buyers are generally both demanding and knowledgeable. To be successful, dealers must provide optimum prices and excellent service, and they must make an outstanding impression.
Ray Catena shows how it can be done. His operations in New York and New Jersey cater to clients of Lexus, Mercedes-Benz, Infiniti, Jaguar, Porsche and Aston Martin. All eight of his dealerships are dedicated to satisfying customers, and the showrooms present the vehicles in a polished and elegant setting.
Hands-on and very involved, Catena, dealer principal of Ray Catena Auto Group of Edison, N.J., is always available to customers and employees. He greets and introduces himself to customers during his regular, often daily, visits to each of the dealerships.
Catena credits his success to 'dedicated employees, loyal customers and the good fortune of having the opportunity to represent superb franchise lines.'
Passion for cars
Catena grew up in Kearny, N.J., 'absorbed with cars,' he says, and began his career by selling used cars. His first dealership, Ray Catena Used Cars, was founded on what continues to be a basic business premise for him: 'If you do the right thing, good things happen.'
Good things did happen. For the first 20 years of his career, while Catena sold used cars, he developed solid business relationships in the industry. While doing business with other dealers, Catena says he realized he 'needed to buy all their used cars' and turn over all but those in the best condition, usually at auctions, while focusing on the high-end vehicles.
Those hand-picked vehicles were the only ones he offered to his own customers. That practice launched his successful career as a new-car dealer, giving him the means to raise capital and acquire other dealerships.
During the next 20 years, he made numerous acquisitions. Some of those dealerships were in trouble, but that didn't faze him.
About a dozen people were picketing a store in Fair Lawn, N.J., on his first day of ownership. They had purchased vehicles from the previous owner and had significant unresolved problems. Catena invited the picketers in and made things right.
The 1981 opening of Ray Catena Mercedes-Benz in Edison was the basis of his plan to create a luxury-dealership image. When Nissan Motor Co. set up its Infiniti luxury channel, he was awarded a franchise. Then came Porsche, Lexus, Jaguar and, just recently, Aston Martin.
He was well positioned to obtain the luxury-vehicle franchises. His dealerships met the manufacturers' criteria. Their locations and high customer service indices easily placed the Catena group in the running for consideration.
Augmenting his eight dealerships are satellite service facilities for Mercedes-Benz in Union, N.J., and for Lexus and Jaguar in Oakhurst, N.J.
Growth continues with the building of another service facility in Edison near the Mercedes-Benz dealership, the corporate headquarters. Moving the service department down the road is providing room for expansion. The latest venture, an Aston Martin dealership, will open this month.
Aside from a strong brand image, Catena's dealerships are sustained by faithful and talented employees who strive constantly to provide the level of quality and service their customers expect and deserve.
'We really care,' Catena says. 'It is not about me; it is about the people.'