The success mantra of the real estate industry may be “location, location, location,” but in the automotive industry it’s all about “location and visibility.”
By relocating their luxury and exotic-car dealership from a Long Island suburb to Harlem, New York City’s historical center of Black culture, Macky Dancy and Tyrone Hill are betting that the alignment with the highly recognized, culturally evocative name of Harlem will prove a winning formula.
“Our move to Harlem was really about being in a community that has always been known as a hub for culture, politics, music and setting trends,” says Dancy, 31, who owns a 2007 Bentley Continental GT and a Cadillac Escalade.
Dancy Power Automotive Group L.L.C. opened in Harlem in September, becoming the largest independent luxury auto dealership to open a showroom in New York. Fittingly, the 11,200-square-foot showroom filled with Bentleys, Lamborghinis, Maseratis and Rolls-Royces sits in the lobby of The Lenox Condominium, a new luxury-condo building at Lenox Avenue and W. 129th Street.
Dancy concedes that his luxury brands are beyond the means of many of the local residents, but he insists that the dealership is in its rightful place in the legendary community.
“We wanted the shock value of people thinking about a luxury dealership in the middle of Harlem, a proud and historic neighborhood,” he says. On a more pragmatic level, however, DP hopes to tap into the more than $32.6 billion African-Americans spend annually on cars, trucks and motorcycles, according to the most current figures from Target Market News, which tracks the spending habits of African-Americans.
The move from Greenvale, N.Y., to Harlem was made possible by a partnership between Dancy’s Dancy Auto Group and Power Motor Cars Co., a luxury dealership in Glen Cove, N.Y., owned by Rick Caplan. Dancy and Hill, 30, are cousins and they run the business as a family affair. “We have been inseparable since childhood. Going into business together has been a good pairing,” Dancy says. “We each have a role, where Tyrone is the silent, logical thinker and I’m the energetic, creative part.”
Success for the young entrepreneurs has come quickly. Though just three years old, in June DP placed 24th on Crain’s New York Business’s list of top minority-owned businesses in N.Y.C., with $13.0 million in revenue in 2007. Dancy says they expect to reach $40 million in 2008.
By reaching out to affluent African-Americans, DP is going after a demographic that many luxury brands sometimes overlook, according to a recent study by Diversity Affluence, a consulting firm, and Uptown magazine.
The study, “Marketing to Affluent African-Americans: Strategic Insights for Reaching an Untapped Market,” notes that affluent ethnic consumers, dubbed “royaltons,” enjoy purchasing luxury brands and traveling internationally and that they focus on trading up to more luxurious brands.
Yet African-American royaltons (AARs) are rarely a target group for marketers, who, the study says, rely on worn and dated techniques, keep using the same celebrities and copy or incorporate a series of clichés as substitutes for more advanced forms of marketing — all of which fail to make a lasting impression on AARs.
“AARs are a compelling audience because they have the money to spend, economic clout and word-of-mouth influence among their peers that could redefine social networking as we know it,” says Andrea Hoffman, Diversity Affluence’s chief executive officer.
“Marketers must educate themselves about this demographic’s needs, interests and economic significance.”
For DP, word-of-mouth by its celebrity clients has been the best marketing tool. The vast majority of their business comes from entertainers such as Alicia Keys, Wycleff Jean and 50 Cent, who can afford to spend more than $200,000 on a vehicle.
In October, for example, DP sold hip-hop mogul Sean “Diddy” Combs’s 2004 Rolls-Royce Phantom for $200,000, and Diddy plunked the proceeds into a new Rolls convertible from the group’s showroom.
DP’s clientele also includes professional athletes, such as basketball stars Allen Iverson and Juwan Howard, football’s Plaxico Burress, boxing champion Floyd Mayweather Jr. and tennis’s Anna Kournikova. Howard, of the Dallas Mavericks, bought a Bentley convertible for $230,000, and Kournikova bought a Porsche 911 GT3 for $130,000.
“Our clientele is really not affected by [today’s] economic turmoil,” Dancy notes. “We are definitely in a niche market, where our customers are in the $100,000 to $250,000 salary range and even more than that.”
The decline in the value of the U.S. dollar, which makes it cheaper for foreigners with stronger currencies to purchase goods priced in dollars, also has been a boon to the dealership. A number of Europeans, for example, are among DP’s clientele.
While the Rolls-Royces, Porsches and Bentleys sell well with their affluent customers, the partners say they will add more affordable cars and will target Harlem’s large Christian population through a Christian car-buying Web site. The move, says Dancy, is both a gesture to Harlem’s community and to Bishop Gerald Seabrooks of Rehoboth Church International in Brooklyn, N.Y., the cousins’ spiritual leader.
Being active members of the community is also a part of DP’s business plan. During the summer, the dealership sponsored a local basketball team to play in Harlem’s Rucker Tournament. It plans to collaborate with the Greater Harlem Chamber of Commerce on other activities. “Neither Tyrone nor I had a father figure in the house while we were growing up,” Dancy says. “Bishop Seabrooks took us under his wing and taught us how to be men; to be responsible for the welfare of our family and our community; to carry ourselves in a professional manner; and to have a work ethic.”
The work ethic of Dancy and Hill keeps customers like Chuck Washington, a construction worker from Brooklyn, N.Y., coming back to the dealership. Washington recently finalized the purchase
of his second Porsche Cayenne SUV, which, according to Kelley Blue Book, the bible of car buying, can cost between $44,600 and $123,000, depending on the trims.
“They get you what you want, when you want it and their cars totally fit my needs,” Washington says. “Their being here is good for the profile of the community.”
DP should not be labeled a trendsetter in the community, but should be seen as a business that is benefiting from the second Harlem Renaissance, says Lloyd A. Williams, president and CEO of the Greater Harlem Chamber of Commerce. “They came to Harlem to take advantage of all the growth and new businesses that are coming here,” Williams says. “The key to their success is to be good neighbors and active members of their community and market themselves accordingly to the clientele they cater to.”
The new dealership will not draw business away from the GM dealership that opened in 2004 on Second Avenue and East 127th Street because they cater to different demographics, Williams says. The GHCC will host an event at DP this month to formally introduce the new business to the neighborhood. “Their dealership is as significant to us as a new restaurant, hotel and museum opening in Harlem,” Williams adds.
Succeeding in Harlem is only the first part of DP’s broader strategy. Within the next three years, it plans to open luxury dealerships in Miami and Los Angeles. “The biggest challenge for us has been patience. You feel that it cannot come quick enough,” says Hill, whose dream car is a yellow Lamborghini Gallardo Spider, priced at $222,060 on Yahoo!Cars.
Dancy and Hill attended Brooklyn College and Queens College, respectively, but neither graduated. Both agree that success might have come a lot quicker if they had finished college, for they would have been better prepared to run a business.
“I wouldn’t change anything regarding how we got to this point,” says Dancy, who is considering returning to college for a business or accounting degree.
“But you do see where [completing college] would have made a difference. But breathing, eating and drinking your vision is still the key.”