LOS ANGELES — Mike Sullivan is the kind of guy you spot across the room. His personality is outsized; he took the stage at a recent Automotive News event dancing to Gloria Gaynor's "I Will Survive."
He is equally well known for his outlandish suits, ranging from sky blue to lime green, which he wears without irony.
But those who really know Sullivan see a savvy multifranchise dealer from Los Angeles' elite Westside, a man with the guts to provide A-list actors with Toyota Priuses to drive to the Oscars.
Sullivan's tactics work. Sullivan Automotive Group shot from 51st to 38th in the latest Automotive News ranking of the Top 125 Dealership Groups, with 2008 revenues of $608 million. He holds Toyota, Scion, Lexus, Volkswagen, Audi and Porsche franchises at seven Los Angeles area stores. And although the industry downturn has him predicting that 2009 revenues will dip to about $500 million, he has been loyal to his staff, laying off fewer than 5 percent of his 730 employees.
"I am closer to my business than I ever was," Sullivan said in a recent interview. "I was an executive dealer; now I am an operating dealer."