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Selling Cars is Different in Paradise, Says AAPI Auto Dealer

Published May 15, 2022

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Sheryll Poe

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Things are pretty casual at the Tony Group auto dealership in Waipahu on the island of Oahu, Hawaii. Laid back, even. For example, you won’t find anyone wearing ties at the Tony Group, but it’s not just the business wear that makes running a dealership in Hawaii different.

“A lot of my peers are in places where the weather is a factor,” Stan Masamitsu, Tony Group’s chairman and CEO said in this NADA video. “We don’t have to worry about planing ice or shoveling snow or things like that.”

The company was originally founded by Stan’s father in 1967 in Japan. Stan’s childhood asthma propelled the Masamitsu family to move to Hawaii in 1977, where his father opened their first U.S. dealership. He opened two more dealerships in California in the following years.

After graduating from the University of Southern California, Stan started working at the family’s California dealerships, holding multiple positions before taking over as president of Tony Group in 1996.

There are a few disadvantages to owning a dealership in paradise, Stan Masamitsu said. For example, it can take longer to get inventory and the time difference can make conducting business a challenge. But, when you’re selling cars on an island with a population of only about a million people, dealership owners do get to know their community and can make an outsized impact.

“Because we’re on an island, it kind of operates like a small town, so everyone knows each other. You help people’s parents, people who were my teachers,” Masamitsu explained. “As you go through—especially the difficult times—you realize the relationships you have with people around you is really what makes or breaks the business.”

May is Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month. To celebrate, NADA is sharing the stories of Asian Americans and Pacific Islander Americans in the auto industry. Read the previous post in this series here and here.

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