Mark Scarpelli, president, Raymond Chevrolet/Kia in Antioch, Ill., and NADA chairman for 2017.
Mark Scarpelli is president of Raymond Chevrolet/Kia in Antioch, Ill. and co-owner of Ray Chevrolet in Fox Lake, Ill. Mark, along with his brother, oversees his family’s two dealership locations, a business that began with his father and one dealership nearly six decades ago. Today, the family business employs more than 300 team members serving northern Illinois and southern Wisconsin.
As many of our readers may already know, Mark was elected by the NADA board of directors as the organization’s 2017 chairman. Previously, Mark served as a 2016 NADA vice chairman and represented Metropolitan Chicago’s franchised new-car dealers on the board. An active NADA member, he has chaired several committees, including Conventions and Expos, Dealership Operations, Industry Relations, Public Affairs and Regulatory Affairs. In short, Mark’s unique skill set combines an understanding of what’s going on in Washington with an awareness of what’s important to local dealers.
Mark took time out from his busy schedule to talk with Dealer magazine about his career as an auto dealer, as well as his plans for NADA this year, including how the organization will celebrate its 100th anniversary.
Mark, congratulations on being named chairman of NADA for 2017. Last year you served as vice chairman and represented Metropolitan Chicago’s franchised new-car dealers on NADA’s board of directors. How has that experience prepared and shaped you for serving as chairman?
I’ve been active in my local dealer association in Chicago for years, and I served on the CATA board as well as chairman. Early on I learned that being involved in local dealer associations was good for business and good for our industry. In Chicago, we helped shape legislation and craft policies that made doing business fair and equitable for consumers and dealers in Chicagoland. Many auto dealerships are family-run and second-generation businesses that are very important to their communities and their employees. After my time on that board I saw similar interests and values with NADA. Over the years at NADA, I served as chairman of a number of committees, including Conventions and Expos, Dealership Operations, Industry Relations, Public Affairs and Regulatory Affairs. Being involved on those levels, I saw that auto dealers can truly make a difference in Washington, D.C.
In your role as vice chairman, you had an opportunity to visit other dealers around the country. What were the major takeaways from your visits, and how are dealers doing these days? What are you hearing from those in the trenches?
Dealers are eternal optimists and always looking at the positives. Many dealers are experiencing strong sales and service at their businesses, which is likely to level off in 2017. As I travel around the country, dealers are concerned about their OEM relationships, third-party intrusion into auto retailing and over-regulation from local and federal government.
Which industry issues do you see as most important or relevant to auto dealers in 2017?
The beginning of my chairmanship coincides with the beginning of a new administration and a new Congress, so we’ll find out fairly early on what level of change is in store for Washington, D.C. But regardless of whether we see a leveling off of the regulatory environment or not, we have to remain focused on ensuring that auto retailing – including financing and service – remains affordable for Americans. And we have to continue to discuss the broader benefits of the franchised dealer network for consumers, automakers and local communities alike. The dealer franchise system is still the most economical and efficient way for consumers to buy and service their vehicles, and new-car dealerships employ more than 1 million people around the country in well-paying jobs with plenty of room for advancement.
This year is historic, of course, for NADA, as the organization celebrates its 100th anniversary. How does the organization plan to celebrate this momentous occasion?
We will kick off the celebration at the 2017 NADA Convention and Expo in New Orleans. Every attendee, especially our member dealers and their managers, will leave the convention with more knowledge and feeling energized. There’s four full days of workshops presented by top-notch trainers, and exhibitors from around the country will be demonstrating their products and services at the sold-out Expo. And, of course, dealer principals will get a chance to engage in direct dialogue with the OEM representative at dozens of dealer franchise meetings. And for entertainment, legendary rock band Foreigner, along with other musical acts, will be performing at NADA 100 Carnival. During the speaker sessions, we have lined up Ford Motor Co. CEO Mark Fields; motorsports legends Roger Penske and Helio Castroneves, three-time Indianapolis 500 winner for Team Penske; comedian Jim Gaffigan; and inspirational speaker Amy Purdy. All in all, this convention, I promise, will have something for everyone.
Which passed or proposed government regulations will have the greatest impact on auto dealerships in the coming years and why?
There are, unfortunately, a number of actions and proposals coming from Washington that are hurting our customers because they’re leading to higher prices. NADA’s public policy initiatives are aimed at protecting consumers from overreaching federal regulations concerning auto financing, recalls and fuel economy. The price of a new vehicle is already out of reach for millions of American families. Our goal is to keep vehicles affordable.
Raymond Chevrolet and Raymond Kia are part of a family business in Northern Illinois, one that’s been around for nearly 60 years. As president, you oversee a large operation at multiple locations. What do you see as the key differences between running a large auto dealership or group and a much smaller dealership? In other words, which challenges are similar and which ones are not? As a follow-up, which challenges are unique to new-car franchise dealerships?
My father started in business here almost 60 years ago, and today my brother and I are the dealer principals. We have grown over the years. We started with one dealership and grew that into what it is today, so we have a unique perspective. Today, we have seven franchises and four locations that support the communities in northern Illinois and southern Wisconsin. I remember when we had 30 employees, and today we have 300. We empower our team members to run their specific departments. And through all those years, we did it together as a family and have remained involved in all facets of our operations. Today, just as it was then, without responsible and engaged team members it doesn’t work. We have been blessed with many, many longtime employees who have worked at our dealerships, some more than 35 years. We foster longevity and loyalty.
Today’s new-car dealership have incredible products to sell. The styling and technology are truly world class. Representing many different auto manufacturers comes with many responsibilities, and facility requirements. At the end of the day, dealerships have to be run efficiently and offer the best customer experience possible. After all, we have many families to help support and thousands of customers who have counted on us for generations.
From telematics to electric cars to cars that drive themselves, technological changes have impacted the auto industry as much as any industry. What auto technology improvements are on the horizon that excite you? Which changes do you think will be most beneficial for the industry as a whole?
Cars today are extensions of our cell phones and laptop computers. There’s a truly amazing number of high-tech options available on today’s new vehicles. I’m very excited by the advanced safety features that are available, from lane warning departure systems, adaptive cruise control and accident avoidance systems. And that technology is evolving at a very fast pace. Advanced safety features are the most beneficial for consumers. Consumer acceptance and understanding of new technologies is key.
You graduated from Northwood University with a bachelor’s degree in Business Administration. Northwood is highly regarded for educating managers and entrepreneurs with real-world experience and helping prepare them for a successful career in a global, free enterprise society. What is the single most important lesson you learned at Northwood?
I will tell you my time at Northwood University prepared me well for my career. We had professors who worked in the automobile business with real-world knowledge of the industry. I attended Northwood with other future dealers and industry leaders, so it was a tremendous learning environment. The biggest lesson I walked away with from Northwood was a passion and new found entrepreneurial spirit to succeed. That has shaped my professional career.
What other NADA channels are available to dealers who want to improve their skill set?
NADA has numerous channels for dealers and future managers to continue developing their careers in auto retailing. The NADA Academy and NADA 20 Groups are all centered on the development of employees in all facets of the dealership. The instructors are industry veterans who know our business from A to Z. NADA is one of the best places for continued industry training.
Let’s return to your early days for a moment. On a more personal note, why did you choose to become a retail-automotive dealer in the first place, and what has this choice meant in the years since?
Cars have truly been in my life for as long as I can remember. I have gasoline running through my blood. I have grown up around cars and dealerships since I was 4-years-old. Over the years, I worked in every department at the dealership. In fact, my first job was washing cars as a porter, then worked as a parts driver, body shop porter, service writer and in sales. After graduating college, I worked for General Motors’ Oldsmobile division as a district manager in Boston. After a couple years away, it was clear that my place was at home with my family and our dealerships. For me, the car business is in my DNA. It’s a part of me. I truly have a passion for it, so the choice was and is crystal clear.
Finally, a few words of wisdom for the next generation. What advice would you give to anyone considering automotive retail as a profession?
The car business is exciting and is always changing. The changes that I’ve experienced over the years have been amazing. I can’t wait to see where it goes from this point forward. This is a business where you can make a difference, be a huge supporter of your community, be your own boss and provide a great living through hard work and dedication. And most importantly, build a legacy. I love this business, and by the way, you get to drive great cars.
Author: Digital Dealer
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