Philanthropist and Entrepreneur John Staluppi to Sell Prized Cars of Dreams Collection During 16th Annual Barrett-Jackson Palm Beach Auction - Read Article>>
For the second time, famed automobile collector John Staluppi is selling most of his automobile collection so he can start all over again.
Among all collectors of rare objects, whether they collect vintage wines, hand-crafted watches or fine crystals, the common characteristic is unwavering passion. Philanthropist and entrepreneur John Staluppi, owner of one of the most admired and notable classic car collections in the United States, is no exception.
Staluppi’s Cars of Dreams Collection will be a featured auction item of Barrett-Jackson, the leader in collector car and automotive events, at the 16th Annual Palm Beach Auction, April 12–15 at the South Florida Fairgrounds. Staluppi’s collection features approximately 140 classic American cars — predominantly convertibles — from the ’50s, ’60s and ’70s. This collection is recognized for the quality of the cars and for the meticulous care each of these beauties has received. So why exactly is Staluppi putting them up for auction? Dolce put the question to him in a recent interview.
“It’s all about ‘the find’ with me,” says Staluppi. “I’m all about finding the cars, buying the cars and collecting the cars. I’m not a long-range holder on anything. Even in the stock market, when I feel like selling — winning or losing, I’m selling. I enjoy finding the cars, bidding on the cars, buying the cars and working on the cars.”
This might sound like a surprising philosophy, but Staluppi can’t be wrong. After all, from his start as a gas station mechanic in Brooklyn, New York, he has built a billion-dollar automotive dealership empire that employs more than 3,000 people.
“Even though my family were electrical contractors, I had no interest in putting my hand in a plug and getting a shock,” recalls Staluppi. “I always loved cars and I was a very good mechanic, and always wanted to open my own shop. So my family took out a mortgage on the home and helped me open my first gas station. That’s how I progressed.”
“I’M ALL ABOUT FINDING THE CARS, BUYING THE CARS AND COLLECTING THE CARS”
Inside every one of Staluppi’s car dealerships is a sign that summarizes his outlook on his business and toward his customers. It reads, “Every visitor to our dealership is an honoured guest in our home.”
“Car dealerships can be very intimidating environments for most people, as you’re walking in to buy an expensive item — probably the second-most expensive item, next to a home,” says Staluppi. “We want people to be relaxed. My guys do not say, ‘Can I help you?’ They say, ‘Good afternoon, how are you? My name is John, what’s yours?’ This makes people feel a little bit more comfortable. So that’s why we have that sign: so the customer knows how we want to treat people.”
Staluppi has been a car collector for decades. A few of the crown jewels in the Cars of Dreams Collection are a ’58 Dual Ghia Convertible; a ’69 Chevrolet Camero RS/SS Indy Pace Car; a ’65 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray Convertible; and a ’63 Volkswagen Beetle, one of the cars used in several of the iconic Herbie the Love Bug films by Walt Disney.
Video Tour of Cars of Dreams Private Museum
In 1964, John Staluppi started his automotive career as a Chevrolet mechanic at age 16. Some 20 years later, he had amassed an automotive empire consisting of 40 dealerships.
Following his stint as a mechanic, Staluppi ran several successful Sunoco stations before taking a risk acquiring a Honda motorcycle store in the early 1970's. Within 10 years he owned 20 Honda dealerships before branching out acquiring other brands.
He has since dialed back the number of dealerships, but says he still "loves the continuous excitement and challenge" the business provides.
Despite divesting several stores the last several years, Staluppi still is a force in automotive retail. Selling nine brands at 17 different dealerships dotted throughout New York's Long Island area, the Atlantic Automotive Group generated $1.6 billion in total revenue in 2010 making it one of the top 15 dealer groups in the country.
Its Atlantic Hyundai store was the top selling Hyundai dealership in the U.S. with 6,214 new Hyundai sales in 2010. It marks the 12 consecutive year Atlantic has boasted the top selling Hyundai dealership – either Planet Hyundai in Las Vegas (which owner John Staluppi recently sold) or Atlantic Hyundai.
Hyundai has awarded Atlantic with its Hyundai Board of Excellence award for 12 consecutive years recognizing it for exemplary customer service in addition to its sales leadership.
Staluppi credits good people and process to his group's success. He recently brought on two of his top people, John Pickett and Michael Brown, as partners in the group. Brown worked for the Penske Automotive Group from 2000-2007 and has a master's degree in business from Boston University. Pickett, meanwhile, spent his entire career with Staluppi working his way up through the Atlantic organization becoming partner this year.
In 1998, Staluppi founded Millennium Yachts, a Florida-based firm that builds luxury yachts.
The World is Not Enough is one of Staluppi's featured yachts and with 20,000 horsepower is one of the fastest yachts in the world with a top speed of 75 mph (61 knots).
In another display of versatility, Staluppi built the Car of Dreams museum located in the Village Shoppes in North Palm Beach, FL. The museum features a stunning collection of vehicles -- most of which are from the 1950s -- staged in a custom built village capturing the spirit of small town America.
12 Questions with John Staluppi
- Becoming Number One:
It's all about people and process.
- Staying on top:
Focusing on the growth areas of our business, customer retention and the Internet.
- Key Vendors or partners:
Reynolds & Reynolds; AAX (DealerTrack's inventory management system)
- Something unique about Atlantic Hyundai:
Our average employee tenure is over 10 years.
- Favorite part about being a dealer:
The continuous challenge and excitement.
- Favorite vehicle:
- One homerun in 2010:
Using the Joe Verde training sessions
- Something you would do differently last year:
Well, we just didn't have enough focus on our used car business.
- What would you improve in the automotive industry?
Due to the industry reputation, it is very tough to recruit and attract educated young people. It is a great business and people would see that if they gave it the chance.
- Next five years:
Look for Hyundai to continue on its path of gaining market share.
A leader finds a way to get the most out of his people. A leader builds a team and surrounds himself with people more talented than himself.