Cars

Is it Ciccolo’s time? Best Places to Work; Reinventing steering

Just how many auto dealerships are there in the United States? I always wondered what that number was—wondered, but not quite enough to look it up.

The folks at Time magazine provided the answer a few weeks back when they sent out a note that Ray Ciccolo, president of Village Automotive Group, is representing Massachusetts as one of 57 national finalists for the 2013 Time Dealer of the Year Award.

The award is one of the industry’s most prestigious, given annually for the past 43 years to a dealer who has been successful in business and shown a longstanding commitment to community service.

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It will be presented on Feb. 9 at the 96th annual National Automobile Dealers Association (NADA) Convention & Exposition in Orlando, Fla. A panel of faculty members from the Ross School of Business at the University of Michigan will select one finalist from each of the four NADA regions and one national Dealer of the Year.

Ciccolo, 75, says of his company, “We are all blessed to be part of an industry that is woven into the very fabric of American life.”

His story is the personification of the American dream. Ciccolo’s first job was as a bottle breaker at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in Boston or as he now jokes, “a human trash compactor.”

A former US Marine, he earned a BS at Suffolk University and an MBA fromNortheastern University.

In 1963, Ciccolo stopped at a used-car dealership and changed his life. “I went in to buy a car and came out owning the dealership,” he says. TheVillage Automotive Group today includes nine locations selling Volvo, Honda, Nissan, Hyundai, Cadillac, Audi, Porsche and remains loyal to Saab with a service facility.

Among its many local charitable endeavors, Ciccolo’s group established Keys to Success, a program that rewards students with gift cards for area businesses and, at the end of the year, has several drawings for a used car.

“These efforts pay tribute to the importance of education and help me give back to a society which has assisted me in leading such a meaningful life,” he says.

Ciccolo and his wife, Grace, are building a home for orphaned babies in Haiti. He also is a founding member of the Global Smile Foundation, which provides free surgical treatment for children born with congenital facial deformities, and supports Alliance for Children’s adoption services around the world.

He’s’ not the only winner in our region. Last year’s Massachusetts dealer of the year was Ann Regan of Regan Ford in Haverhill.

Oh yes, and that number of dealerships? Approximately 17,000.

Best Places to Work?

What’s in the air in Saco, Maine? Patriot Subaru (No. 5), PrimeVolkswagen (No. 9), and Prime Toyota (No. 60), all of Saco, were named to the Automotive News Top 100 places to work.

Topping the list was Jaguar of Plano (Texas), but New England placed eight dealerships in the rankings.

The Lyon-Waugh group that’s based in Peabody had four honorees: Mini of Peabody (No. 19), Porsche-Audi of Nashua, NH (No. 74), Land Rover of Peabody (No. 85), and Acura of Peabody (No. 94).

Coming Our Way

Nissan recently displayed two new steering systems.

The first, a drive-by-wire technology scheduled to debut in an Infiniti next year, uses electronic motors to turn the front wheels and a camera-sensor system to improve on-center driving, even on crowned roadways. A fail-safe mechanism will allow a clutch to reconnect the steering column for manual steering, if necessary.

The second is an autonomous emergency steering system that will swerve to avoid a collision with a pedestrian or parked car if the driver doesn’t react quickly enough. The system uses a camera, three radar units, and five laser scanners and acts on risk of a collision that cannot be avoided by braking.

Nissan anticipates it will be three years before the system is ready for production.

The company also is finalizing development of an engine braking system that’s designed for any vehicle with a CVT (continuously variable transmission) and can help with both braking to a stop or controlling a vehicle that has entered a curve too fast.

Etc.

Chevrolet will unveil its seventh-generation Corvette on Jan. 13, 2013 in Detroit. The company already is displaying the car’s new crossed-flags logo, the latest variation on the car’s hallmark since its 1953 introduction. Why mention the date? Because it happens to be my birthday. Now wouldn’t a C7 Corvette make quite a present! …It won’t get quite as much hoopla, but the new Chevy Silverado pickup will be introduced a month earlier, on Dec. 13. Chevy certainly will sell more trucks than Corvettes. The Silverado will start production in 2013 and go on public display in January at Detroit’s North American International Auto Show.…We wonder what the destination charge is going to be on this delivery? On Oct. 24, nearly 200 Michigan dealers met at the Palace of Auburn Hills arena and departed at the wheel of their first Ram 1500 pickup trucks, which they drove back to their Ram showrooms across the state.

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