If there's a profile of the typical car dealer -- the local small-businessman who's content to run a family store and know everyone in town -- then Bernie Moreno is not a typical car dealer.
A native of Colombia who grew up in Florida and attended the University of Michigan, Moreno spent 12 years working for Herb Chambers' big dealership group in Boston before striking out on his own in 2006, acquiring a Mercedes-Benz store outside Cleveland.
Since then, he has scarcely slowed down. He heads an expanding empire, now called Bernie Moreno Cos., which owns 18 dealerships in Ohio, Kentucky and Massachusetts and generates more than $900 million in annual revenue. And Moreno, 49, is pushing for more. He has been awarded a new Infiniti point in Coral Gables, Fla. -- held up for now in a legal battle -- and is on the hunt for further opportunities.
"Anywhere between Miami and Boston, if it makes sense," he said in an interview.
Moreno represents a new breed of auto retailer -- young, ambitious, aggressive, willing to invest big and able to drive heady sales growth. And that makes him the kind of dealer some automakers will go to extra lengths to help, just to get him on their team.