Special Report

2011 Ward's Dealer 500

A newcomer to the Ward’s Megadealer 100 is Pasadena, CA-based Rusnak Auto Group, celebrating its 45th year as a purveyor of highest-priced European supercars.

Led by founder Paul P. Rusnak, the group’s 11 dealerships distinguish themselves by specializing in ultra-luxury brands Bentley and Rolls-Royce as well as the premium nameplates of BMW, Jaguar, Mercedes-Benz, Porsche, Audi and Volvo. Then there is a Hyundai franchise, acquired three years ago.

With $604.8 million in total revenues, the group ranks No.36 as a Ward’s Megadealer 100 member selling 6,700 new cars and 5,700 used vehicles in 2010.

Since its establishment on Pasadena’s Colorado Blvd., the Rusnak organization has served affluent celebrities and customers in the greater Los Angeles market.

The flagship store is next to the Norton Simon Art Museum and near the Rose Bowl stadium. Other stores are in Westlake Village, Arcadia, Thousand Oaks and Loma Linda.

Rusnak’s daughter, Victoria Pearson, an attorney, serves as the group’s chief operating officer and general counsel. In 2009, then-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger named her to the California New Motor Vehicle Board.

Rusnak supports various local causes, including Children's Hospital of Los Angeles, the Make-A-Wish Foundation and a local AIDS service center. Ford, when it still owned Jaguar in 2007, honored him and nine other dealers nationwide in its “Salute to Dealers” program for his community work.

He also was a finalist in 2008 for the American International Automobile Dealers Assn.’s dealer of the year award.

Pearson has overseen the implementation of many new programs, including a greater Internet presence and an updated employee-incentive plan. Staffers are required to dress sharply, including suits and ties for the men, despite the Southern California casual style.

“Dad started his auto career in 1959 as a Chrysler-Plymouth-Dodge salesman and then a dealer in Culver City, CA,” says Pearson. “But he always had the goal of entering the premium-car market.”

Rusnak has been fascinated by European premium cars since his youth. He owned a Jaguar XR120 while in college. He got into the car business “by accident,” he says. He started selling cars to help a friend and took a liking to it. That was more than a half-century ago.

Being in the car business that long, “you learn a thing or two about keeping clients happy,” Rusnak says.