Mirror, mirror on the wall, who in greater Tampa Bay sells the most vehicles of all? Logic suggests a dealership in highly populated Hillsborough or Pinellas counties selling popular autos like Toyota or Honda might be No. 1.
Wrong by more than a mile. The biggest seller of new vehicles is Hyundai of New Port Richey. Not only is the dealership tops in volume of new vehicles sold by anybody in the bay area, it is also the No. 1 Hyundai dealer in Florida and has been tops in the Southeast among Hyundai dealers for the past 59 months. It ranks third nationwide.
From January through May of this year, the Hyundai dealership has sold nearly 1,500 new vehicles. Regionally, nobody else, not even the big Toyota dealerships in Tampa, even cracked 1,000, according to sales data from AutoCount.
How did this happen? For some insights into this dealership's unusual success, we talked to Scott Fink, 49, president of 85-employee Hyundai of New Port Richey. Fink started working for Ford and has owned pieces of Clearwater Mitsubishi and Clearwater Toyota in years past. Last week, he was near Irvine, Calif., attending Hyundai's national dealer council, where he spoke by phone to the Times.
How did a Hyundai dealer in western Pasco blow by the big dealerships in sales?
When I first started, in the first month of business in June 2003, we sold 141 new cars, outselling everybody in the market. For the first six to eight months, we competed with the Fitzgerald dealership south of us in Countryside. We were like a prizefighter. We kept coming and our volume kept building. Everybody looked at us as the new guy in town, that we would get tired and fall down. It didn't happen.
Who is your biggest local competition?
Sun Toyota is right across the street. When we began to surpass them, I knew we had something special.
What's your secret to outselling more popular brands?
My goal was to go out and build a massive base of satisfied customers. They will become your vocal sales force within the community. We currently have over 26,000 Hyundai owners, and I have them to thank for our ongoing success. I also think that my belief (has helped) by putting the dealership's profit objectives aside, going out and giving the customer what they want to make them a Hyundai owner, such as paying them more for their trade, or getting them a lower payment.
So how do you handle an unhappy customer?
I figure it takes two guys to fight. If you are angry about a product, come to me. I don't think about how much this will cost me. If you have a problem, we want to solve it, so when you leave my business you are no longer angry. Then you go to your neighbor or fellow employee and tell them about your experience. That's how we continue to sell cars.
You even have a mantra at work?
It's "Know No Boundaries." We work to take down all the hurdles each and every day that might stop us from selling even more cars. We don't set sales goals. Our goal is to sell as many as we can each and every day, working on the core belief that another new Hyundai in traffic will yield another satisfied consumer who will yield us another chance to sell another Hyundai.
Hyundai did not start out as a brand with much of a reputation for quality, but that is changing and Consumer Reports even gives it top marks now.
The rise of the Hyundai brand has been significant in our success. As the product becomes more in demand, our traffic and therefore sales continue to increase. I will tell you that I have seen some of the future product offerings, and it only gets better for the brand.
Which Hyundai models are most popular with your customers?
Back in 2006, Hyundai's share of the auto market was 2.5 percent. Now it's 5.3 percent. The Genesis (sedan) was Hyundai's halo product. Today the big products are the Tucson (SUV) and the restyled Sonata (sedan). I work out at a local gym. When I first got the Hyundai franchise, the guys did not talk much to me about product. Now I can't walk through the gym without someone asking if I can help them get a Sonata. It's been such a positive change for the brand.
You own other dealerships?
Yes, I own Hyundai of Wesley Chapel and Mazda of Wesley Chapel. We have the same sales and service philosophy there, but we have not had the same sales volumes. There is more of an economic challenge there.
But you see plenty of growth ahead at the New Port Richey dealership?
We're looking at expanding the facility and adding more parking.