A Hispanic customer need not hunt down a Spanish-speaking salesperson at the 11 auto dealerships that are a part of Ancira Enterprises in San Antonio.

“We’re proud to be one of the first Spanish-speaking dealerships in the U.S.,” says April Ancira, the group’s vice president and daughter of Ernesto Ancira Jr., who heads the organization.

The group’s 550 employees share a desire to help the 40-year-old dealership group surge in sales, profits and market share as it strives to be No.1 in the San Antonio market, she says.

“As one of the first minority-owned U.S. dealerships, we are challenged at each of our six Texas stores, which handle 11 brands – Chrysler-Dodge-Fiat-Jeep, Buick-GMC, Ford, Kia, Nissan, Volkswagen and Chevrolet,” April Ancira says.

She is an alumna of the National Automobile Dealers Assn.’s Dealer Academy and San Antonio's Trinity University. Her husband is from a Baltimore dealer family.

The distinction as arguably the first Latino dealership in the U.S. has earned the group special awards from Buick, GMC, Ford and Nissan.   

Three Ancira stores are on the WardsAuto Dealer 500 this year, including No.162 Ancira-Winston Chevy, No.233 Ancira Chysler-Jeep-Dodge and No.406 Ancira Kia.

“Our top brands are clustered on an auto row in San Antonio on Bandera Road, each with an up-to-date store,” April Ancira says. “The updating of buildings here has led to our breaking net profits records in 2011.”

Ernesto Ancira purchased the Chevrolet dealership in 1972. Later, he and business partner Ralph Winton went looking for new property and found a spot on Bandera Road.

The property was more than they could afford at the time, but a local real-estate giant, Quincy Lee, shook their hands, and Ancira Winton Chevrolet moved to Bandera.

The Internet, which gets 10% of Ancira advertising allocations, helps bring in leads, but the group devotes 15% of ad money to radio, 15% to newspapers and 60% to TV.

Ernesto’s brother, Gilbert Ancira, manages the group’s e-commerce website, but scrapped a trial pay-per-click ad program because of lagging return on investment.

Ancira devotes 21 of its 95 salespersons to Internet sales, measuring response time to leads on a 24/7 basis.

The group uses Facebook to connect with customers and tout worthy causes, such as the Salvation Army, American Cancer Society and Cystic Fibrosis Foundation.

“The Facebook vibe is extremely important to us,” April Ancira says.

She takes selling cars seriously, and not just because it is good for the family. “We believe that car sales are vital in enhancing our customers’ and employees’ lives.”

The Ancira dealerships sell twice as many used cars as new, but new car sales are picking up because of new product from auto makers, she says.

In addition, repair orders, customer referrals and Internet leads have doubled from the recession times of 2008 and 2009. Customer satisfaction is up.

And “more than anything, employee spirit has escalated,” Ernesto Ancira says. “As we add dealerships in Texas, it’s gratifying to see us all wear pins that declare, ‘One Team, One Goal!’”