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Business Observer Thursday, Feb. 25, 2010 12 years ago

Need for Speed

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Is the worst economic downturn in generations the right time to open a car dealership that sells vehicles priced liked beachfront condos? Yes it is, says Victor Young.
by: Mark Gordon Managing Editor

The concept of selling $200,000 cars in a stifling recession doesn't seem to daunt Victor Young.

And why should it?

After all, this is a salesman who beat out a dozen well-heeled competitors in 2008, when the Italian executives of Lamborghini awarded him the rights to open a dealership of the renowned brand on the Gulf Coast. That dealership, which covers markets from Tampa to Naples, officially opened in early February.

Young, who also runs a BMW dealership in Sarasota and a new Mini dealership in Wesley Chapel, has spent more than $1 million on the Lamborghini dealership, from parts and signs to a glossy 12,000-square-foot showroom. He has been partially backed financially on the Lamborghini project by Larry Morgan, a Tampa car dealer and philanthropist.

Even though Young began his Lamborghini quest in 2007, before the economy tanked, he says he has no regrets about opening now.

“I actually think my timing couldn't be better,” says Young, whose dealership is the 29th Lamborghini showroom to open in the country and the fourth in Florida. “Lamborghini is probably the most iconic and exclusive brand in the world.”

Now Young has to figure out how to sell cars so iconic and exclusive that the vehicles compare in price to luxury beachfront condos and three-bedroom homes.

Young is off to a fast start so far. He has sold six Lamborghinis since September, when word leaked he was going to open the dealership. Five of those sales were straight-up cash purchases, while one was financed.

Young's goal for 2010, now that his showroom is open, is to sell at least one new and five used Lamborghinis a month. With prices for new Lamborghinis starting at $200,000 and running up to $1 million, it could be a tough sell.

But Young says he is encouraged by a few recent developments. For one, while he realizes the recession isn't over for many consumers, he thinks it's at least ebbing for some wealthy folks. “There was a stigma that if you had money you were bad,” says Young. “I see that starting to go away.”

Young is also buoyed by some Gulf Coast and Florida demographics. Florida, for instance, is the number two state in the country for exotic car sales. Moreover, the Gulf Coast ranks fifth in the country in exotic cars owned, says

Young, which opens a potential revenue opportunity in the maintenance and service of Lamborghinis.

Of course, that opportunity comes with a distinct challenge: There are only about 90 certified Lamborghini mechanics in the country, since there are so few dealerships. And just about all of those mechanics are happily employed, Young learned.

That problem was solved when Young sent his two best BMW mechanics to Italy, so they could be trained the Lamborghini way.

Young, who grew up in Tampa fascinated with cars, also knows his way around an engine. He even built a car from scratch when he was 15 years old.

Young's first career, however, was in TV and radio. Then, in the early 1990s, Young got into car sales and worked for several dealerships in Tampa and Clearwater, where he eventually met and worked under Morgan.

That love of cars is how Young became infatuated with all things Lamborghini. In 2007, he began to turn his passion into a potential business opportunity, when he called some Lamborghini executives in Italy. That led to several in-person meetings in Miami, where the company's top executives got to know Young.

The Lamborghini executives considered other potential car dealers to open a new facility, some of whom came with fancier pedigrees. But Young wooed the Lamborghini honchos with his knowledge and devotion to the brand.

“It was a matter of really making a connection with them,” says Young. “They wanted an auto enthusiast.”

Finally, if Young isn't successful in the Lamborghini venture, he can always fall back on another title: Show-and-tell superstar. He picked up that moniker last year, when he took his teenage daughter to a high school dance in one of the Lamborghinis.

— Mark Gordon

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