Fixed operations director, American Motors Auto Group
Editor's note: An earlier version of this story misstated where American Motors Auto Group is based.
Joe Castelino’s mission is this: He’s working to drive out inefficiency not just in his service department, but in every service department.
“I believe the auto industry as a whole needs an entire makeover,” he said. “Coming to the dealer, we make it a pain in the ass to do business. We herd you in like sheep, and we run it for the convenience of us. The auto industry is the way it is because someone’s uncle’s father’s brother’s sister’s aunt’s mother told you it should be that way.”
Castelino has modeled a large part of his business strategy after Amazon’s. At the service departments in the 11 stores owned by his company, American Motors Auto Group, of San Jose, Calif., transactions are paperless, decisions are instant and interaction between customers and personnel can be nonexistent.
The results have been eye-opening. Technicians at the group’s Volkswagen store in San Jose spend almost 70 percent less time on administrative tasks, and the store is expecting to book $64,000 in savings by not having to buy paper, forms and printer supplies.
“What we’ve built in our group is a full Amazon experience, a component that goes start to finish on one single platform,” Castelino said. “What that does is give everyone a customizable experience.”
Customers can pay online and pick up their keys from a kiosk without having to wait for a cashier to ring up the invoice and for a porter to retrieve the car.
“Too many things are in place that make servicing your vehicle too inconvenient. My goal is to bring automotive to a digital age,” he said. “I believe that automotive retail can learn from Amazon and give fully customizable and consistent service experiences. It has become a passion to make an impact on the automotive industry as a whole.”
Castelino, a gearhead who drives a 1962 Chevrolet Nova — powered by a fuel-injected Corvette engine — to work every day, is inspired by a 1994 book by Terry L. Carlisle and Forrest Vanderwall called The Evolution of Traditional Service Departments, a tome he calls “super radical.”
Castelino demurs when asked how many hours a week he is putting in as the stores in his company adapt to the new processes. His voice conveys that he is a high-energy manager who moves at warp speed. But when Castelino is away from work, he enjoys spending time at baseball games with his wife and two children and wrenching on his fleet of hobby cars. “When I check out, I do check out. I enjoy life.”
— Richard Truett