What Richard Mastria began in 1955 with a Chevrolet dealership in Taunton, MA, has grown into a six-store, award-winning Massachusetts powerhouse. Mastria Auto Group is still family-owned and -operated, as many members of the Mastria family have a role in the company’s success.
Mastria has earned the Mazda’s President’s Club and Gold Cup awards multiple years in a row. The designations are the highest honors given by Mazda North American Operations, recognizing dealerships for providing superior customer experiences, together with achieving top sales performance.
Ruddy Brito, CEO of Mastria Auto Group, credits the employees for the dealerships’ successes.
“Our core of excellence has been due to our focus on putting the customer in the forefront of our dealership and, most importantly, taking care of our customers. We know our employees are the core of everything we do, so we spend a lot of time trying to surround ourselves with people who are in line with our core values, and we focus on hiring people based on those principles to make sure that we have the right person first before we put them in the right seat.”
One way Mastria Auto Group employees enrich the consumer experience is by providing customers the information they need to make an informed purchasing decision without the constant pressure to buy.
Brito said one of the challenges the dealership group faced internally in the F&I department was integration.
“Different manufacturers utilize different ways to communicate,” Brito said. “Certainly, F&I became an area of focus for most dealers, being that you have margin compression. We needed to change that philosophy from really trying to sell product to instead informing consumers about the product benefits in order for them to really see their value.”
Another obstacle Brito said the dealership group faces are the disruptors in the marketplace. “We have companies such as Carvana and CarMax, as well as a lot of new EV companies wanting to sell directly to the public.”
Mastria Auto Group recognized these challenges, along with the challenge of consumers doing more research online, with the option of working on the deal from the comfort of their home, so they began looking for a solution.
“When it comes to F&I, not only do more and more consumers want to spend less time in the dealership, they want to start that finance process and learn about products earlier on,” Brito said. “We know that they spend 15 hours researching online for their next vehicle.”
Mastria Auto Group overcame this challenge by retraining their F&I employees — who had been successful in traditional methods — to give them new tools to help them understand the consumer’s wants to transact a little bit differently than before and become versed in the benefits of the new F&I processes. “And that’s why it’s important that you have the right people with the right vision in order for you to make those changes,” Brito said.
When looking for a new F&I process, Brito called together a team of individuals from every department — “from the office to parts to the person who takes pictures” — to interview vendors and help make the best decision — one that puts the customer first and offers multiple platforms.
“I wanted to make sure that it was something that once a customer arrived at a dealership, that they were not starting from the beginning,” Brito said. “I found that a lot of the solutions were great digitally, but once a customer showed up at the dealership, it was the same process. You still had to get them through the CRM, you had to push that customer to the DMS, then you had to print up a menu and then present that menu. It was taking too much of the consumer’s time — we just wasted what I call ‘dead space.’ And I wanted to make sure that we were able to condense that.”
They determined that the best solution came from Darwin Automotive.
“We found that Darwin was the only company that the customer can actually pay 100% online, and F&I can still present at their convenience,” Brito said. “So, whether you are in the showroom or you start a conversation online, ideally, the minute you say, ‘Yes, I’m ready to buy,’ we get you into F&I and out within an hour.”
Brito said he was especially impressed with Darwin’s ability to be proactive and make program changes they requested.
“They (the Darwin team) are eager to improve the tool based on the customer’s needs,” Brito said. “Literally, if there’s a change, I’m on the phone with a performance manager and they have come up with some features I’ve requested based on the customer needs within that month. It’s just been a great partnership and great experience.”
Brito also greatly appreciates Darwin Automotive’s flexibility and adaptability.
“I think they realized that that is the future. Darwin is very competitive, and I think that they have been able to come up with a solution that fits really well for us, but most importantly benefits the consumer.
One of the Darwin features Mastria Auto Group utilizes is Fastlane, which enables consumers in the vehicle purchase or lease process to go into the Darwin application using any smart device, to build out their deal and share the deal structure with a family member or friend at the click of a button. Then, all they have to do is go into the dealership, test drive the vehicle and sign the paperwork.
“Our PRU from an F&I perspective is actually up,” Brito said. “That was really a concern of mine, before partnering with Darwin. But what’s more surprising to me is the product per turn.” He said the F&I process is much simpler because the consumer can see the F&I products and choose them before coming into the dealership. “My team just loves it.”