Braintree Patch recently sat down with Tufankjian and his sons Greg and David to talk about history, the challenges they faced after opening in Braintree, changes in the industry over the years and more.
What did you do before?
By the time Tufankjian graduated from Whitman-Hanson High School some 50 years ago, he was already selling cars. He worked his way up at his father's Oldsmobile dealership in Bridgewater, as a cleaner and technician, then went to school in Flint, MI and became one of the youngest licensed dealers in the country in his early 20s.
"I always loved cars," he said. "All my life I've only done two things – Oldsmobile and Toyota."
When did you open?Toyota of Braintree opened in July 2008. Prior to that, Tufankjian opened a Toyota dealership on Bridge Street in North Weymouth in the summer of 1994.
What were some of the challenges you faced opening those dealerships?
The Braintree location opened at the start of the worst economic downturn in the U.S. since the Great Depression. Following that were Toyota recalls and a tsunami that rocked Japan and its supply chain.
"[The economy] was a huge obstacle," Tufankjian said. "People had money but they didn't want to spend it."
In Weymouth, shortly after the dealership opened, a bad storm blew the roof off the building. The main showroom was closed for six to eight months while repairs were made and the Tufankjians moved their operation to another building.
"You could see the sky," Tufankjian said. "And we survived."
How many cars do you have at any given time?
All told, Tufankjian has between 900 and 1,000 vehicles between the three locations, with about 750 of those in Braintree.
How many employees do you have?
The Braintree dealership employs 148 full and part-time employees. There are 30 full and part-time employees in Plymouth, and two employees in Weymouth.
Why did you decide to open in Braintree?
By 2007 the Weymouth business had become too large for its location. The lot could only show 200 vehicles at a time and it was difficult to grow the customer base without being situated next to a major highway.
Tufankjian began looking around the area for a new location, nearly settling on a property in Hingham near the Derby Street Shoppes before buying four acres of land from the Hilltop Restaurant next to the Braintree Rotary and Route 3. The family was originally seeking eight acres, but couldn't turn away from the prime location.
"So we dug a huge hole and we went up," Tufankjian said.
What about Plymouth?
During the summer of 2012, Tufankjian opened a dealership on Court Street in Plymouth. There he and his sons sell Hyundai's – a car brand that has developed similarly to Toyota in the United States over the past two decades.
"Ten years ago it was a disposable car," Tufankjian said. "Now it is a desirable car and the quality is way up."
Future plans in Plymouth include acquiring more property to build a new facility.
How has the industry changed over the years?
The car selling business has changed in many ways since Tufankjian began in the industry 50 years ago, with two standing out most significantly.
The car buying experience is completely different in that now you can show up at a dealership and drive off with a new car within three hours, Tufankjian said. Toyota of Braintree has a registry office on site and can get financing completed quickly as well.
The other change has been the shopping experience for customers. The Internet allows customers to research vehicles extensively before even showing up to a dealership.
"They have access to everything," Tufankjian said. "They come in with a lot of knowledge."
That means even smaller margins for the dealer.
"Our margins have really shrunk," Tufankjian said. "What we do now is volume."When do you typically sell the most cars?
The busiest month of the year is always August, when people have time to shop because they take time off work, Tufankjian said. The single busiest week is between Christmas and New Year's, depending on the weather, for similar reasons.
January is the slowest month, typically because of the weather, but President's Day in February is a big weekend.
Where do your customers come from?
The majority of Toyota of Braintree's customers come from within a three-mile radius, Tufankjian said.
The dealership's market limits, assigned by Toyota, extend as far north as Quincy, south as Norwell, east as Hull and west as Canton and Randolph.
If you could change one thing in town to make it easier for small businesses, what would that be?
Braintree's government and residents are wonderful to work with, Tufankjian said, so he could not come up with a major change that he would like to see. Tufankjian noted that town officials are very cooperative and that he in turn provides a lot of local jobs. One third of his employees are from Braintree.
"It's a very patriotic community here," Greg Tufankjian said, "very cohesive."
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