NEW YORK—2000 years ago, when asked by one of his students whether there was one sentence that could be used as a lifetime guideline, Confucius replied: "Do as you would like to be done by others". This has also been viewed as the essence of Confucius philosophy.
2000 years later on the other side of the planet, an Italian American business man echoes the same ideals. When asked about the secret of success in his auto dealership, Mr. Corrado Joe Manfredi, the founder and co-owner of Manfredi Auto Group, mentioned several times: "I treat people the way I want to be treated, simple as that".
Banks and media make things tougher
A majority of Manfredi’s dealership are located on Hylan Ave in Staten Island. With a couple of them in Brooklyn, the auto group’s vehicle line up includes: Toyota, Scion, Hyundai, Subaru, Mitsubishi, Dodge, Chrysler, Jeep, Mazda, and Chevrolet new and pre-owned cars, trucks and SUVs.
One of Manfredi’s dealerships, Safe Toyota, has been the first Toyota dealership in New York, and has won the prestigious Toyota President Award, which is given to only one dealership in America every year. For Chinese people, the most popular one should be its Staten Island Toyota on 1591 Hylan Blvd.
Manfredi attributes the slower business to banks, “Business is off about 40% for Toyota, Mazda and Mitsubishi. Chrysler is off about 15%. Chevrolet is doing very well. We’re off because of the banks. The banks are not giving loans. That’s our main problem.”
“The banks only lend money to people who have a perfect score”, said Manfredi, “We hope that the banks will soon enough give money to the people. If they were giving the loans, we would do much better.”
Manfredi watches TV every night, and he is not happy with the media’s making things even more difficult, “Right now we have a problem. One time we had trouble with the gas. Then we had problems with the banks. They give no loans. Then no leasing last year. The stock market went down. Everything happened at the same time, and with the bad publicity — the newspaper told people to not buy cars now. That’s the problem, too much media.”
The best time to buy a car
“This is the best time to buy a car,” Manfredi also thinks that the government should lend a hand, “Again I was saying, we are in America. We need leasing programs and we need a better program to give money back to the customers. We need three, four or five thousand dollars to give to the customers.”
Manfredi views Honda as doing a good job, “They have good leasing programs. They give back money when a customer buys a car.” He thinks Toyota is also doing well but could learn more from Honda.
With different car makers and dealerships offering various promotion packages, Manfredi suggested that those who really need a car should buy one now. Like others, Manfredi said, “I make less profit when I sell this car. What I’m doing right now is to move cars and make less profit when move the cars; that’s it.”
“We have a great price for the customers, this month we just got a great program,” said Manfredi.
Family business takes good care of customers
Time and again Manfredi emphasized, “We are a family dealer. We worked our way from the bottom up. I treat people the way I want to be treated. We do a repeat business.”
In 1952, Manfredi immigrated to America from a village in southern Italy. Working as a mechanic when he was 14, he bought the same dealership several years ago, as a teenager. That has started his 57 years of career in building up the Manfredi auto empire.
“I was a mechanic. I know what the customers want. They want great dealers and great service. We sell them a car and they come back to us for recommendation, that’s how we do business. And we work on low profits. We have great service. That’s it,” said Manfredi.
The passion with car of the father has been well inherited by the son. “My son started to go to school. After 3 months, he said to me, ‘I don’t like to go to school’, I said ‘what are you going to do?’ He said, ‘I want to be with you.’ So when he was 17 years old, he was with me, fixing cars until he learned to do all the other things. He has been with me since then,” said Manfredi.
“I and my son are here 7 days a week, we’re always here,” Manfredi said the idea is to work very close with customers, “I love every minute here.”
The community feeds you and makes you successful
Walking into the office of Joe Manfredi, one would be impressed by various awards, medals and trophies, hanging on the wall or sitting on the tables. Lots of them are from the community to show the appreciation for his generosity and support.
“You got to do those things. We work with kids, baseball, soccer, basketball,” said Manfredi, a fan as well as a good soccer player, “We make money and we give back to the community. You have to work very close with the community, very very close.”
“You take care of your family, and then the family feeds you. You feed me, you keep me in business, and you make me successful and then I’ve got to take care of you.” Manfredi said that doing business is as simple as that but a lot of people simply do not do that.
Do as you would like to be done by others
“Remember to treat people well, give them the most respect, give them service and do business as a family,” said Manfredi, “I keep you happy. 3 years later, 4 years later, you come back to me, with a friend, a neighbor, or whoever.”
“We have a family atmosphere. We offer ourselves to the customer. I know one thing: my record speaks for itself. We keep our words and do the right thing,” said Manfredi.
This way he does not have to worry too much, “We always go on. One customer brings you five [more]. Daughters, sisters, cousins, wife, family, friends, they bring them to you because you treat them good.”
Being in the business for so many years, Manfredi has heard various stories, “We knew there had been a customer who went to the dealer to buy a car. Two days later, or a month later, he had a complaint. However nobody cared about that guy, now that he had bought the car. ”
“(As) for me, I need the guy. I take care of the guy, (be it) a day later, a year later, or 5 years later. I’m always there for you. Come to me and I will take care of you. If your cars are getting fixed, I give another car to you or I take you home. That’s what we live for, to take care of your needs,” said Manfredi
Anderson will come back to Manfredi if for another car
It has always easier said than done. Other dealers may say exactly the same thing. Manfredi knows well about this, “Do we keep their promise? That’s what you have to find out.”
“I said to people: you ask anybody that has my name on the back of the car. Ask that person how Manfredi is. I’m very happy and proud to put my name on the back of the car,” Manfredi mentioned this with an obvious confidence:
“That person can talk good or bad about me. I know maybe each individual feels different. But 99% of my customers are happy and that’s all I care.”
On the way back from the Conversation with Mr. Manfredi, I saw a white Toyota Corolla in the parking lot of Nino Italian Restaurant, with “Manfredi Auto Group” on its plate. While the owner, Ms. Pat Anderson walked toward her car, I asked about her experience with Manfredi.
“I live in Staten Island. I went to Manfredi a year and half ago and bought this 2007 Toyota Corolla. They are very good,” Ms. Anderson said that it’s a lady named Christina Mikiten who sold her the car and she likes that.
“As a matter of fact, she told you everything right then. You didn’t waste time going back and forth, ‘what’s the price’ – anything like that. We bought [the car] within half an hour. She was very good. I will go back to that lady again”, smiled Pat Anderson.
Epoch Times’ Sherry Hu contributed to this article