With car sales moving online and dealers starting to consolidate, now might not seem like the ideal time to jump into a family-owned dealership. But Frank Mastrovito sees things differently. This, he says, is the perfect time to own a family-owned auto retail business which can provide personalized service that many national chains cannot.
One year ago, in May 2021, Frank and Coleen Mastrovito purchased a Yorkville, New York dealership, now named Mastrovito Hyundai. Today Mastrovito Hyundai receives well-earned industry recognition with an F&I Pacesetters Award, an awards program that recognizes dealerships with highly profitable F&I departments that show a commitment to regulatory compliance.
Yorkville is an upscale neighborhood nestled in central New York, in the Utica/Syracuse area of the Mohawk Valley. The neighborhood begets small-town charm and hospitality and is the perfect place for a family-owned business to thrive, especially when it delivers a personalized and welcoming customer experience.
From the minute a customer arrives in Mastrovito Hyundai to the moment they leave with a new car, they know something is different about the dealership, according to Mastrovito.
“Our customers tell us how different we are all the time. They say it’s like walking into your mom and dad’s house for Sunday dinner. We have cookies baking in the oven. Employees greet them with a warm smile and walk them through the sales process,” he says. “We even employ a customer care manager—my sister—who makes sure our customer experience always remains high.”
Mastrovito makes every customer feels like family. He examines all third-party surveys and online reviews, performs spot checks on customers, and shakes every customer’s hand when they walk in.
Should a customer leave a negative review or have a complaint, the dealership’s customer care manager steps in to resolve things quickly. “She isolates the objections, and then to the best of our ability, we overcome each one,” he says.
Happy employees make for happy customers, Mastrovito adds, noting he does whatever he must to ensure the dealerships’ 60 employees feel cared for then trusts them to care for customers. “We have contests, take them to dinner, individually and as a team,” he says.
He adds, “Our handbook says we have an employee-first culture while expecting employees to keep the customer first. It is my job and my wife’s job to make sure we have happy employees. When we have happy employees, they will keep our customers happy. The only way to have happy customers is with happy employees.”
When Mastrovito bought the dealership in 2021, it sold 60-80 cars a month. Today, that number sits at 200 to 250 per month. But Mastrovito hopes to drive sales to 400 vehicles a month by September.
“We set that goal and our entire staff knows and understands the goal and what’s required to get there,” he says. “We are getting closer every month. Last month we sold 300 cars.”
Currently, the F&I sales per vehicle averages $1,200, but Mastrovito also hopes to move the needle on those numbers. He brought in Jonathan Bryant to serve as F&I director. Bryant has worked to streamline F&I sales and boost the skill sets of the entire F&I team.
Bryant opted not to hire a third-party training company but to tackle training himself to ensure the team handles every sale the same way. He starts each day with a half-hour of training where he reviews deals from the previous day and shares how the F&I manager might have managed things differently. He discusses the mindsets they need and how to support sales early in the sales process.
“We develop a plan of attack for the deals they have for that day,” he says. “I review what I saw the day before. Then I talk about what they could do differently. I train them to think outside the box.”
Bryant believes in a good customer interview that develops a relationship and focuses on customer needs helps move F&I sales. He trains team members to ask:
- How long did you keep your previous car?
- What kind of car are you considering and why?
- Did you have warranties on your previous car?
- What do you want in a deal today?
“The information gives them a plan of attack versus going in cold,” he says.
He also focuses on progress toward goals, which he sets at the start of the month, then revisits weekly. He compares progress against current metrics and corrects course if he sees things veering off track.
“I review this data daily and with the entire team every seven days,” he says. “It helps catch things earlier. They know what they need to do over the next seven days to direct their course.”
Bryant puts the focus on four key metrics: warranty penetrations, product per deal, ratio reserve and products. “We talk about PVR, but we don’t focus on it. I believe if we focus on our four metrics, PVR takes care of itself,” he says.
Bryant also takes time to develop individual team members. He reviews pain points, successes, knowledge gaps, etc. “Maybe they are not putting a lot of effort into general,” he says. “I’ll ask ‘What can you do about that? How can I help you?’”
Sometimes it’s just a small fix, such as bringing in a vendor to review the product with them. But those things are impossible to know, he says, without individual attention.
Get F&I Involved Early
The traditional F&I process puts an F&I sales manager behind a desk with the customer on the other side. And the first time they see each other is at the end of the sale.
Mastrovito moves that process to the front. Bryant’s office is near the showroom floor, which allows him to jump into the process quickly and early. “We are really transparent with our customers,” he says. “We talk about their budget and establish ourselves as an advocate for them. Otherwise, they feel like they are going into another sale when they meet with F&I.”
“Our customers really appreciate the fact that we talk about vehicle protection products early on,” he says.
Mastrovito Hyundai also invested in making the process more digital, Bryant adds. They added DARWIN Automotive Digital Retailing technology to present the F&I menu. “We use these tools to talk about the cost of ownership and to show them how adding products will affect their payments,” he says.
Mastrovito remains very hands on in dealership management, which lets him set the pace and lead the market. This strategy has helped the dealership move through the current inventory shortage. The dealership put a strong emphasis on outbound follow up, which has helped it secure inventory. Mastrovito Hyundai has anywhere from 250 to 300 cars on its lot at all times, in stark contrast to other dealerships.
“Being a hands-on leader helps me improve and be better,” Mastrovito says. “That’s important. Because once you’re leading the pace, how do you continue to do that? You keep a very forward-looking culture. The industry changes every day, and we have to change with it.”
Giving Back to the Community
Mastrovito notes the dealership’s early success would not be possible without community support. For this reason, he likes to support the community in return.
Every month, Mastrovito Hyundai picks a different charity for a donation. In February, $100 of every new sale went to the American Heart Association. The dealership also supports Alzheimer’s Awareness and Breast Cancer Awareness months. “We always donate based on the cars we are selling,” he says. “In March, we are donating $50 of every new and used car sale to Autism Awareness, as well as organizing our own team to walk in the Autism Speaks Walk.”
The dealership constantly supports the community because “this is our community,” he says. “We’re ingrained in it. Our customers are our friends, our relatives, our neighbors. Giving back to the community is important and extremely rewarding.”