Bob Alvine says he made just about every mistake he possibly could make after switching careers 12 years ago and acquiring Premier Subaru in Branford, Conn.
Not long after the young banking executive bought the dealership with his father, he misread a factory invoice, then went out and shot his first TV commercial. Alvine offered viewers an eye-popping deal on the Forester crossover -- the televised price was $1,500 less than the car cost him.
He had to honor the below-invoice price on 30 Foresters.
"It was a very expensive mistake," he says.
And then there was Alvine's first trip to an auto auction. He bought all the wrong vehicles -- based on what he liked, not what was selling at his store -- and he paid far too much. Worst of all, he didn't buy any Subarus.
But he learned fast. When he took over the shabby store outside New Haven, Conn., it had a poor reputation for customer service and tiny sales volume. Alvine overhauled the staff, rebuilt the facility and today sells four times as many new cars as the dealership did in 2000.
Of course, it hasn't hurt that the Subaru brand has undergone a resurgence.
Last year Premier Subaru sold 804 new vehicles, up 12 percent from 2010 despite a severe shortage of inventory in the United States because of the earthquake in Japan.