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Reader Spotlight: Joe Pistell of the Sun Auto Group


1.  Where do you work and what is the URL for your dealership(s).  Feel free to list multiple URL’s.

Sun Auto Group in Syracuse New York.  Visit us at:  UsedCarKing.com

2.  How did you get into the Automotive Business?

Readerjoepistell4I loved cars ever since I was a kid. I belonged to SCCA (Sports Car Club of America) and was quite good at ice racing (it always use to be cold enough to race on frozen lakes back then!).

Business Summary: I was a pioneer in Auto Accessories retail, my 1st store was a 3 bay garage behind a house and 6 years later I had and ran it up to  a multi-million dollar operation that grew to 3 stores. I cashed out in 94.

In 95, I became an online stock trader (there were NO online brokerages in 94). I paid the rent as a self-employed stock trader till 2000. During that period, I taught myself computers and how to build web sites. Worked for AOL in Personal Finance area.  I assisted in a  successful startup; SuperTraders.com (Run by a real stock picking Genius Jim DePorre).  In 2001, I built a site for a local Chevrolet store and was recruited to be their marketing director with an offer that I couldn’t turn down (its fun to say that!).  Recently, I moved to Sun AutoGroup, the UsedCarKing.com. THE big fish in our small market and a 110% believer in all things internet.

3.  What are you currently driving, and if you could have any other car what would that be?

Current:  06 Silverado 4×4 Crew (leased… thank God!).

Dreaming of:  AC Cobra.   As old as I am, but waaaay better looking.


4.  What are you currently working on?  What’s your big push?

A totally new web site. Built for SEO, video galore, CSS, dynamic content generator and so much more. Totally cutting edge (stay tuned). After that I am going to beat CRM or die trying.  vAUTO needs my attention too.

5.  How would you rate the relationship between your Internet efforts and the traditional dealership departments on a scale of 1 to 10?  If you answered anything less than 10, what would you like to do to improve those relationships?

Sun Auto Group is not your father’s dealership ;-).  The internet is mission critical here. We have >1,000 used units on the ground, the reps use the site as part of their qualifying and presentation.  The owner’s son (Todd Caputo) is young and gifted entrepreneur.  He has his foot jammed on the throttle and his instincts are on the money, time and time again.

6.  If you had a limitless budget, how would you structure your department?

see CheckeredFlag.com <snicker> Gotcha Alex!

7.  What is your favorite thing about the Internet side of this industry?

I don’t see where this all ends! Hahaha… love it!

8.  What is your favorite thing about Dealer Refresh?

The brains. Lotsa smart players here.

9.  Joe, you used to be on the vendor side of the aisle, if there is one thing you can tell dealers about how to deal with vendors, what would that be?

I’ve been to Vegas at least 25 times, to SEMA, CES and NADA.  I’ve worked both sides of the aisle, as a buyer and a seller. There is no one way I deal with all vendors.  The most important vendors are the  mission criticals with complex items and have a lot of promise in it. And even here there are no 2 alike.  Lets look at 2 & compare my web builder HomeNet(HN) and my CRM provider ReyRey.

With HN, I take on a partner mentality.  They committed to my big vision and they’re killing themselves to executing it to as close as I drew it up.  Flowers of gratitude to Jesse B’s team, Matt, Tammy, Chris, Mike and more.  They are effort-ing above and beyond the call of duty.

With ReyRey, go ahead and try to warm up to that vendor.  NOT.
Hahaha… hey! No hate mail from your R&R troopers! Seriously, ReyRey’s CRM is mission critical, yet the reps can’t help you with the day to day issues.  No partnering feel here,  so, the sales guys get a lil’ bit o’ Junk Yard Dog from me.  Yet (I’ve said it here before) ReyRey’s tech support is world class.  All that being said, why does it take 400 hours to master R&R’s CRM platform?  Can any dealer be using more than 5% of its potential… oh oh… I’m rambling again.

I’d say the most valuable tool in vendor relations is knowing which vendor can help you reach your goals, then make that vendor your partner.  Sell that vendor your vision with a smile and back slapping enthusiasm and you’ll find above average service and someone who gives a sh*t about you, because you need them. And in the end, tell me, who doesn’t like to be needed?

10.  What do you do outside of work?

I am a golf Junkie. Tiger calls me when Elin (his wife) wants him to do yard work.

Ain’t Photoshop grand? Oh. I’m the guy in the back 😉


Dealer Refresh wants to thank Joe Pistell for his continued contributions and support!  Good luck on the new website Joe, and please stay away from Photoshop 🙂

If anyone has questions or comments for Joe, please leave those after the article on this page:  click here (the normal comment spot).

Who knew an argument with Jeff Kershner, in 2005, would lead to Alex becoming a partner with him on DealerRefresh. Where will the next argument take ...
Funny Joe. I hope my boss doesn't see this and starts to think that budget we have looks like a limitless one!

How far away is the new site?
15-30 days to beta. Got my hands full, I'm pushing for a Oct 1 launch.


Love the picture! Too funny! Wow that is a lot of seminars you been too! Talk about being around the block a few times!

Great Job!

This post is a nice one to get to know more about you & your sense of humor too!
Thnx Jen.
I've been to vegas conventions too many times, mostly to the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) and Specialty Equipment Manuf''ers Assoc. (SEMA) conventions.

I was a featured speaker for EbayMotors at 04 NADA in vegas. All I got outta that presentation was an 'atta boy' and a pen. woo hoo! hahaa...

A pen and a pat on the back??? Wow!! Talk about high class. LOL.

You should have received a brand new car!
  • J
    Jeff Kershner
  • August 22, 2008
Joe, thanks so much for being apart of our first Reader Spotlight. You're one hell of an interesting guy. Love the photo of you and Tiger. Dieing to see the new website too!
I always thought Joe was in the witness protection program.....I dunno maybe I watched the Sopranos too much :)
anything you want to share with us about that last picture? :) Us weekly wants a interview!
Tiger has a lot more time on his hands and 50% less cash!!

hahaha... leave it to you BT!