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New England Auto Dealers Monthly - Cover Story

New England Auto Dealers Monthly

- Cover Story.


By Jon Neumuth
Photos by Jon Neumuth

On the cover:
Dean and Joe Cusano 

It has been said that to achieve success in business you must find a niche. Find a need and fill it. Joe and Dean Cusano, owners of Motorcars, Inc. in Plainville, CT, seem to have done just that. 

Their business of selling, servicing, and restoring European cars, mostly Jaguars, is thriving not only because of their extensive knowledge of the vehicles but also because they have no real competitors. Instead, they work with new car dealerships, car clubs, and service facilities in a way that is beneficial to all. 

"We are the only people that have them," said Joe Cusano, "If somebody says they want a two, or three, or four year old Jag, they have nowhere else to go. This is it. The dealers don't even have them. They do 2000's, '99's and '98 and we do '97's and '96's... We have the cars that are more attainable to a larger amount of people," added Cusano, a man sometimes called "Jaguar Joe." 

Motorcars sells the types of cars that most dealers can not sell because of the cost involved. "If they buy a 1995 car and it needs anything, it costs them too much money to get it prepped. We do everything inhouse, which allows us to sell the cars for less. It is not like we are paying someone to do the work," Joe said. 

Thirty years of owning and restoring Jaguars has given the Cusanos the experience and expertise needed to train a technician staff to make those inhouse repairs that allow then to sell Jaguars that go back many years. "We re working on 1948 Jaguars all the way up to 1995 or 1996," Dean said, "I have a smart group of guys." Despite have a talented staff, both Dean and Joe are both very hands on. Dean said he is back in the service bays constantly helping out. There is not a car that goes on the lot for sale or is repaired for a customer that Dean or Joe have not reviewed first. "We are both perfectionists," Joe said, "Even though our techs are very competent, we check everything. We spend a lot of time going over what they just did, but it has paid off so far." "I don't care if I have to lose money on a job," Dean added, "it has to be right." 

Joe and Dean got started in the car business by helping at their father's garage in Hartford. Joseph "Ozzie" Cusano owned a repair shop in Hartford that specialized in electronic problems. Because of that specialization, he had high caliber technicians working for him. That lead to many other car professionals bringing jobs to him that were too complicated for their shops. "If there was a domestic car someone could not fix, they would bring it to my father's because his techs were a step up," Dean said. 

When foreign cars like Datsun and Subaru hit the market, few were familiar with them and those cars were brought to the Cusanos, which led to their specialty in foreign cars. 

After Joe graduated from college, he went to work for his father and eventually became his partner. Dean came aboard after graduating from college, when his father became ill. When Ozzie Cusano left the business, Joe and Dean became partners. The concentration on Jaguars happened because they liked to both work on and drive the cars. "Jaguar is the best bang for your buck," Dean said, "It is the most performance you can get for the least amount of money. Always has been and always will." Joe feels the same. "I started with Jaguars in 1967," he said. "We always had Jaguars. That is how we started selling predominantly Jaguars years ago." 

A newer Jaguar being serviced for a happy customer. 

A 1959 Jaguar MK IX Saloon

A 1948 Jaguar 3.4L Three Position Drop Head in Motorcars' service bay. 

 

The Cusanos and their father had built a fairly big business for themselves in Hartford, until 1989 when Joe and Dean decided to leave Hartford in an effort to scale back the business somewhat, specializing in Jaguars and other European cars. They were looking to "mellow out" a bit, but it did not work out that way. "We had a big building in Hartford and we came out here to specialize. Then what happened is all the customers who did not want to go into Hartford, followed us out here and we got bigger," Joe said. 

They may have gotten bigger, but their new facility in Plainville is only a quarter of the old one. "We thought things would be more mellow but business doubled right off the bat. We got busier than we ever dreamed. It got way out of hand," Dean said. 

To get back to a more manageable level of business they scaled back their show car restoration business. They now do about two "full blown show car restorations" a year. They still like to do mechanical restoration on a neglected Jaguar that has been sitting around for years and restore it to a point where the owner can drive and enjoy the car. That seems to work better for them and their customers because full-blown restorations are not a money maker for the business, for a customer can usually buy a similar car for less than it costs to fully restore it. Still, sometimes a customer has his heart in a certain car, and since show-car quality restorations can help to promote the business, the Cusanos will undertake the work of a full restoration project. 
 

Today, Motorcars, Inc. is mostly a sales, service, and parts operation. They have eight full-time employees, four of them talented technicians. Dean oversees service and parts, while Joe buys and sells the cars. They sell about 200 cars a year and usually have close to 60 in their inventory with about 80 percent of those being Jaguars, though they often have BMW's and sometimes a Ferrari or other exotic cars on hand as well. There are no salesmen at Motorcars, Inc., however, Dean and Joe believe that if they buy good cars, they will sell themselves. 

Most of their cars come from dealers up and down the East Coast; they do not buy cars at auctions. The two of them have made many contacts over the years through racing and involvement in Jaguar Clubs of North America. They use those contacts to get good cars. "When they (other dealers) are taking a car in trade, they will call us and say, 'What would you pay for this car? What do you think it is worth?' And I tell them what I would pay for it. They take it in trade for that amount, and I buy it," Joe said. "They call me before they buy it." 

Many dealers the Cusanos deal with let them take cars home for a night or longer to see if it is a good car. "If it is not a good car, I don't want it," Joe said. "I send it back. And that is the way we do it." Dean said that when they buy a car they are every bit as cautious as any other customer buying a car. "I would rather spend time fixing customers cars, not my cars," said Dean. 

Their relationships with local Jaguar dealerships are good, the Cusanos say. They send newer car customers to the dealers for service work because they do not have the latest computer technology, and the dealers send older cars to Motorcars, Inc. which is also helping to build the brand. That's good for everyone involved with Jaguar.

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