Special Report

2011 Ward's Dealer 500

The Bommarito Automotive Group sold more than 74,000 vehicles last year, helping to make it a highly recognizable auto-retailing brand in the St. Louis market.

The high volume of sales has put the group on the local map. So, too, has an assortment of marketing brainstorms from Frank Bommarito, who at age 77 is still active in the business he founded.

Senior Financial Manager Samuel Massey gives his boss credit for keeping the Bommarito name in front of car buyers through various marketing initiatives.

Those include sponsoring a local TV news helicopter bearing the Bommarito name, dedicated websites for each of the group’s 13 brands and advertising in all media on both the Missouri and Illinois side of the Mississippi River.

The group ranks No.19 on the Ward’s Megadealer 100 with total revenues of more than $1 billion. Bommarito’s vehicle sales include 36,404 new units and 10,778 used.

Fleet deliveries are nearly 27,000 units.

Bommarito opened his first dealership in the St. Louis suburb of Ellisville in 1972. His first brands were Oldsmobile, Cadillac and GMC. The original store was renovated last year.

The early 1970s were a period when many import brands got their start. Bommarito was eager to bolster and diversify his growth by acquiring franchises from Japanese and European auto makers, while rounding out his franchises to include Buick and Chevrolet.

The group now sells Audi, Mazda, Infiniti, Volkswagen, Honda and Nissan vehicles and expanded its domestic offerings with the 2010 purchase of its first Ford dealership in the St. Louis suburb of Hazelwood.

“What’s in a name? Plenty,” says Frank Bommarito, noting loyal customers like to buy from a name dealership, as do their descendants.

“When we started out, we feared that Cadillac-Olds-GMC would be a problem,” he says. “But we hung in there, as we added more brands, and created a brand itself, as have many other dealers such as John Bergstrom in Wisconsin, Rick Hendrick in the South and the Van Tuyls in the Midwest and Southwest.”

John Bommarito, Frank’s son and the group’s president, foresees revenue growth this year of nearly 9.5%, similar to the U.S. auto industry in general.

“We'll be pleased to reach No.15 in the 2011 Ward’s Megadealer 100,” Massey says.