Here is your Monday reading if you want to slack a work a little.
Brian Miller's dealership, Manhattan Motorcars Inc. in New York, boasts a roster of exotic and superluxury brands under one rooftop, often selling vehicles with price tags topping $1 million to the rich and famous.
September 21, 2015 - 12:01 am ET
Dealer Brian Miller is a jeans-and-sneakers guy who occasionally still drives the first car he ever bought: a 1972 Mercury Cougar.
Miller, 58, is also a guy who can write a check for $3 million at the Geneva auto show to buy a Bugatti. As a dealer to an elite clientele, he tirelessly caters to the high-powered rich and famous.
"I'm kind of a low-key guy that likes weird stuff that turns out to be expensive," said Miller. "When I was young, I liked to be flashy. My dad was the same way. He came from humble beginnings, and he likes fancy cars. I like to stay in the background now."
Miller's dealership, Manhattan Motorcars Inc. in New York, is anything but low key. It boasts a roster of exotic and superluxury brands under one rooftop, often selling vehicles with price tags topping $1 million to the rich and famous. He sells Rolls-Royce, Bentley, Lamborghini, Lotus, Koenigsegg, Bugatti and Porsche vehicles at his Manhattan store. He has two other Porsche stores and an Audi store outside the city.
Miller's secret to success is providing hands-on four-star service to people who expect nothing less.
"No one wanted these franchises back when I started doing this in the early '90s," Miller said. "They were very small franchises, and it didn't take much to run all of them."
But his brands' sales have grown over the years. Today, Manhattan Motorcars sells about 850 new cars and 350 used cars a year, across all its luxury brands combined, making it one of the top superluxury car dealerships in the country.
"Manhattan Motorcars is a key dealership for us. They are a linchpin in an extremely important market," said Gerry Spahn, spokesman for Rolls-Royce Motor Cars N.A. He declined to comment on its sales volume or rank but said New York, Southern California and Florida are "historic core markets" for Rolls-Royce. He added: "The dealership has a long history with the brand."
Movin' on up
Miller said: "As one auto executive said to me, 'You have all the jewels in the business in your place.'"
Miller speaks with a typical New Yorker's rapid-fire pace. He retains a genuine affability and humility, nurtured by remembering his roots.
"I started selling cars in 1983," Miller said, working at his family's "little Porsche-Audi store" in West-chester County.
The store, Classic Automobiles, also sold Lamborghini and Lotus. In the early 1990s, Miller was living in Manhattan, shuttling customers' cars from the city to the Westchester dealership and back each day for service work.
He knew Porsche lacked a dealership in the city.
"We approached Porsche in 1993 to see if they would want to open a store in New York City. They really didn't have a lot of interest at that time," Miller said. "But the following year, they came back to us and said, 'We're interested.'"
So in 1996, Miller and his dad took Porsche from the Westchester store into the city, renting a 20,000 square-foot, first-floor space at the current location on 28th Street and 11th Avenue. They added Lamborghini, Lotus, Bentley and Rolls-Royce at that time.
Brian Miller and seven employees ran the entire store.
"I used to open, I used to close, I used to write the leases, bank the leases, and it was really a very hands-on approach back then," Miller said. "For us, it was kind of a risky move because we had no money."
But it succeeded. Miller added Koenigsegg and Bugatti last year. The dealership expanded to all five floors plus the roof in 2004, filling a total of 115,000 square feet. The first floor is a showroom with Porsche on one side and the other brands on the other. The upper floors are used for service, used cars and stocking inventory. Miller's business has grown so much that he now rents a parking lot in New Jersey to stock more Porsche inventory.
In the next 30 to 60 days, he will move Porsche, Bentley, Lamborghini and Bugatti to a 150,000-square-foot, newly renovated dealership at 51st Street and 11th Avenue. The other brands will stay at the current location where he also plans to sell classic cars.
Miller has been buying Porsche models dated from 1958 to the mid-1980s to sell.
He has a 1961 Porsche Roadster worth $350,000. He has a couple of used 2015 Porsche 918 plug-in hybrids valued at $1.5 million each despite recently selling as new for about $845,000.
"It just shows you the strength and the depth of the collector car market because $1 million is not a lot anymore," Miller said.
Miller's status as a premier superluxury dealer was cemented when Bugatti executives invited him to their stand at the Geneva auto show last year.
"They wanted to lock me down and sell me the car," Miller said. "I picked out color choices, I spec'd the car myself and they wanted me to finalize the order. So while other guys are just at the show, I'm spending $3 million."
It took Bugatti eight months to build the car. He had it in his showroom for two months before selling it.
Miller's client list reads like a who's who of the rich and famous. His regular customers include comedians such as Tracy Morgan, famous athletes such as Mike Tyson, wrestlers, local radio personalities, actors and actresses, he said.
While some, such as Morgan, will entertain the staff, Miller said, he asks his staff not to take pictures or ask for autographs.
"I say to treat them like anybody else; they've come here to do business so try not to be too star-struck," Miller said.
In the meantime, Miller continues to succeed by providing the same hands-on service he did in the early 1990s when he was shuttling cars between New York City and Westchester.
"I have a very good client whose secretary will call my cell and say, 'We have a flat tire and the car's at the hangar in the airport.' I have to make sure I send somebody out from one of my stores to change the guy's tire or do whatever it takes," Miller said.
He added: "We do it. These are high-powered businesspeople who no one ever says 'no' to, so that's what they expect and we have to deliver on that."