Italians are known for doing everything with passion, and it comes as no surprise then that passion is the main driving force behind the successful development of L’Auto SpA. “I have always been fascinated by cars,” sums up Founder and Managing Director Calogero Pedalà. “I have always been curious to see what was going on in the market. The industry has an amazing innovative power, and at the end of the day, there was no other choice for me than working with cars. My sister and I have always worked with VW and Audi cars – first as mechanics. I still have a vintage VW Beetle in my garage which I will never ever sell.”
In 1973, at the age of 23, Mr. Pedalà established his own business in the province of Como. “I was very young when I started running my own business,” he says. “First, I concentrated on services only before shifting the focus towards the commercial part.”
In 1991, Audi was added to the portfolio. A few years later, a second subsidiary opened in Cantú. In 2005, two subsidiaries were established in Como. Today, L’Auto has four subsidiaries in total, 100 employees and annual sales of 97 million EUR.
“Selling new cars is still our core business,” explains Mr. Pedalà. “Best sellers include models such as T-Roc, Polo, Tiguan, Golf, and the Audi A 1, 3, 4 and the RS version.” In 2017, the company sold 1,965 VW cars, 813 Audi cars and 130 VW commercial vehicles.
“Over the last few years, sales have constantly increased,” states Mr. Pedalà. “We had a growth rate of 1.5% in the past, which is far above average in Italy. We are the only VW and Audi car dealer here and are deeply rooted in Lombardy, which is the most populated and wealthiest region of Italy. We benefit a lot from these beneficial conditions. Last but not least, we concentrate on VW and Audi cars, two extremely strong and successful brands that are equated with German engineering and high quality.”
Today, Mr. Pedalà is 68 years old and still full of passion and vision. Thanks to his fundamental experience, he knows exactly how the business works best. “I always try to think like our customers do,” he says. “I put myself in the customer’s shoes and ask myself what I would expect when contacting a car dealer. This way I try to find out about their expectations, and I behave accordingly. In general, this works out pretty well. Sometimes you make mistakes, but this is normal. Nobody is perfect, but you can learn from your mistakes.”
Adapting to new situations is another important key to success as the automotive industry has changed significantly in recent years. With new technologies and trends such as digitization, self-driving cars and e-cars, L’Auto constantly faces new challenges.
“There are always new things coming up,” states Mr. Pedalà. “To keep up our competitiveness, we are keen to expand our customer services further. We already offer 360° services including tyre service, body repair service and others. Now, we aim to add 24-hour service, financial services and rental services to the offer. Another challenge will be putting a stronger focus on hybrid cars. Italy is still pretty much behind other countries when it comes to alternative vehicles. We’ve already started offering hybrid cars some time ago. And we already sold some hybrid Golfs and Audi 3. Customers are increasingly interested in those promising new technologies.”
L’Auto learns its lessons and adapts quickly. When it comes to communication concepts, the company is putting more and more emphasis on social media channels and is currently working on 360° digital communication via Google and social media.
“Customers behave differently these days,” points out Mr. Pedalà. “We have always benefitted a lot from word-of-mouth marketing, and this has not changed. However, fewer people come to have a look at our showrooms. Due to the Internet, they first look for information online, and only regular customers come to visit us. We even observe this new customer behaviour when it comes to events. Each time a new model is launched, we organize an event. When the Audi A 8 was introduced, we expected 200 to 300 guests to come. In fact, there were only 150, which was quite disappointing at first. However, at a closer look, the evening was a great success as around 1,200 people followed it on social media platforms. In this respect, we reached far more people than expected.”
L’Auto’s future plans are ambitious. The company banks on committed and qualified employees and is ready to face new challenges. One goal is to consolidate its market position further and to continue growing. Another one is to ensure a smooth handover of the business.
The next generation of the family – Valentina and Giulia Pedalà – has been working in the company for years and is thrilled to follow in their father’s footsteps. “We have already put a lot of time and energy into succession planning,” sums up Mr. Pedalà. “And we’ve made great progress. This makes us look ahead with confidence.”