Special Report

2011 Ward's Dealer 500

FORT MYERS, FL – Scott Fink is a competitive auto dealer. So he gets riled when baffled prospective customers tell him they never heard back after emailing his dealership about a vehicle they were interested in.

“I feel like tearing my hair out when I get an email like that,” he says. “Sometimes, we are our own competition.”

High on his priority list is making sure staffers are responsive to all customers, whether they enter his dealerships on foot or online. “At all costs, I am going to build an owner base,” Fink says.

A native New Yorker and schooled as an accountant, he worked in sales and marketing for Ford in New Jersey. He became a Mitsubishi dealer in Florida 22 years ago.

He opened his first Hyundai dealership in New Port Richey, north of Tampa, about a decade ago, before the Korean brand became as hot as it is today. “Back then, Hyundai was not close to hot,” Fink says at an ESA Conference here.

But he helped stoke the fire. “I realized I needed a strategy. It was not enough to hope for people to come in. I knew I would be the one to change the face of Hyundai in this market.”

Fink recalls telling his operational team: “I’m putting $1 million in the bank to sell cars. Go out there and buy some business.”

They did in various means, including multi-media advertising, particularly TV spots. He spends $3 million a year on ads that pitch a value message, often taking aim at competing brands.

“My target was Toyota,” Fink says. “I’d hammer them. Some dealers love me; some hate me. Hey, if I can sell more cars I don’t care if I don’t get invited to their birthday parties. My competitors try to figure a way to take me down. I’m not going to let them.”

In his ads and in person when talking to customers, “I diligently try to tell people something they don’t know,” he says. “That’s what they told us to do at Ford when talking to dealers.”

He’s not a big believer in sales quotas because, ironically, he thinks they can impede sales. “I’m not saying you shouldn’t have targets, but when you put numbers out there, you start managing the numbers.”

Another dealer once told him, “My sales quota is 50 cars, but I could actually sell 70 a month. I said, ‘Why not sell 70 then?’”

Fink boasts of a 32% close rate and an “army” of 28,000 loyal owners. “We take deals others won’t. I am not going to miss a chance at a customer relationship over a couple of hundred dollars.”

He tries to build loyalty one transaction at a time, whether it is selling cars, parts or service. “It is long term. People will buy from you if you treat them right, and we try to.”

Hyundai of New Port Richie is the second largest dealership in Florida and the brand’s No.3 outlet in the nation. Fink owns a second Florida dealership, Hyundai and Mazda of Wesley Chapel.

He sold 4,600 new cars last year. “My goal is to sell as many cars as possible every day. Am I happy about yesterday’s sales? Yes, but what about today?”

sfinlay@wardsauto.com