Adrian Ward Quinn, president and owner of Mt. Kisco Chevrolet Cadillac, an auto dealership in New York’s wealthy Westchester County, has a clear-cut strategy for surviving in the beleaguered auto industry. “Be leaner, stronger, and keep reinventing yourself—that’s my philosophy,” he says.
With just more than $56 million in gross revenues for 2005, Mt. Kisco Chevrolet Cadillac ranks 15th among the top 25 Black-owned companies in the New York tristate area, according to data obtained from Black Enterprise. Quinn has been diligently applying his survival formula in an environment still reeling from Hurricane Katrina’s blow to U.S. oil production, rising gasoline prices and a slowing economy. Gas-oline topped $3 a gallon earlier this year, proving a breaking point for owners of gas-guzzling sport utility vehicles. The popular SUVs promptly fell out of favor as American consumers turned to more cost-efficient passenger or hybrid cars.
Quinn’s customers behaved no differently. “Sixty percent of my new-market sales were in SUVs,” he says. The dealership was forced to drop Hum-mers from its product line, a move that made a sizable dent in its bottom line. After last year’s more than $56 million in gross revenues, Quinn says he would be happy to clear $50 million this year.
In February, he cut seven staffers from his work force of 46 employees and, as part of the reinventing process, he is trying to increase sales of his “crossover” vehicles—those that look like minivans or station wagons on an SUV frame. “We’re a lot leaner and meaner than when we started,” Quinn says. “Mount Kisco is a very high income area, so when our SUV sales went down, we [started] marketing to our middle-income buyers with our new and used passenger cars and crossover vehicles, like the Cadillac SRX or Chevrolet Equinox.”
Quinn hopes the recent drop in gas prices will work in his favor as Chevrolet rolls out its new Tahoe, Suburban and pick-up trucks. Sales of these, plus General Motors’ new hybrids, should help to stabilize his business, he says. “It’s a tough time for the car business, but no matter what happens in the economy, you can still grow and get through it.”
Once an employee himself, the transition to entrepreneur was a smooth one for Quinn. He grew up in Detroit in the 1960s and worked his way through college at a GM manufacturing plant, eventually becoming a district manager for the company. Bitten by the auto bug, he was so confident that cars would be his path to success that he quit his job to enter GM’s dealer development academy in 1983. The course entailed two years of training, which combined classroom instruction and on-the-job training. Once a dealership became available, GM would provide financing for those applicants who needed it. Quinn moved from the Motor City to own his first dealership in Poughkeepsie, N.Y., in 1985, and in 1993, he moved to the Mount Kisco location.
When he’s not brokering business deals, Quinn can be found volunteering at various charity events for the Rotary Club and Boys Club of Mount Kisco. He’s also a motivational speaker for his local chapter of the March of Dimes. “I don’t have time to sit on the boards of these organizations, so I get involved when I can.”
Cars are in his blood, says the divorced father of two. Even in his down time you can find him driving to car and air shows in his 1965 Chevrolet Chevelle. “I love old cars, old planes and old music from the ’60s,” he says. Essentially, he loves all the cars that remind him of his youth in the Motor City.
By Bevolyn Williams-Harold