California dealer has been ‘doing something right’ for over 100 years
It is a story of 120 years and three generations in the making. An American story full of trials, tribulations, struggles and successes.
The story begins with two Italian brothers and a long boat trip on behalf of Fiat, and ends with an award-winning Volkswagen dealership in Los Angeles.
The history of the Bozzani family and their car dealership includes train robbery, the Great Depression, motorsport racing, the construction of the Pasadena Highway, and most importantly, Australia.
Greg Bozzani, Partner, Managing Director of Covina Volkswagen (formerly Bozzani Volkswagen) and grandson of one of the founders of the first Bozzani Motor Car Company, recently shared his family’s story in his own words as part of recognition from the NADA Century Award.
The first days
“In the early 1900s, the Bozzani brothers, Joe and Amerigo, were commissioned by the Italian company Fiat to research possible locations in the New York area for a factory to build Fiat cars.
“During the long boat trip from Italy, Fiat executives decided to scrap plans for a manufacturing plant in the United States. Arriving in New York, the brothers discovered a waiting telegram informing them of change of mind. [Ed. Note: Fiat did eventually build a facility in Poughkeepsie, N.Y., in 1910.)
“Although disappointed with the news, the elder brother, Amerigo—oddly enough—thought that Australia was the true land of opportunity. He convinced his brother, Joe, to take the train to Los Angeles so that they could secure passage to Australia.
“The train ride proved long and treacherous, so much so that the train was held up, Jesse James-style, and they were robbed of all their money and belongings. They disembarked in L.A. not knowing a soul and headed to the Italian neighborhood section of Los Angeles to lay roots.
“The year was around 1908, and they called for their younger brother, Carlo, to join them. The trio opened a workshop that would repair any type of motor vehicle. At the beginning, they were mostly involved in motorcycles. By 1911, they had secured a dealership for the Dodge, Chrysler and Plymouth franchise and located it in a building at Sunset Boulevard and North Broadway in downtown Los Angeles.
“Although they started in the bustling center of Los Angeles, slowly the three brothers expanded with other locations and franchises. In addition to the Dodge make, they sold cars that are seldom heard of today—Willys Knight, Overland, Isotta Fraschini, just to name a few.”
Part of the Fabric of the Community
“Before the market crash resulting in the Great Depression, they had built their reach to seven dealerships in and around the Los Angeles area. [During the Great Depression] the brothers were forced to close everything except the central Sunset and Broadway location. There they had a successful career selling and servicing not only cars, but the surrounding community as well.
“They have been involved in many automotive and motorsport related activities, including racing vehicles in fuel-saving races, and racing bicycles and motorcycles in the famous wooden velodrome on the coast west (the Los Angeles Motordrome in Playa del Rey).
“Amerigo was also one of California’s first freeway commissioners and was instrumental in establishing one of the first freeways in the Southern California region. The Pasadena Freeway was built under his watch to connect Pasadena to the business and commercial hub of downtown Los Angeles.
The next generations
“The brothers retired in the late 1950s, and the location was sold and eventually razed for a parking lot, as the town center had moved south. Before his retirement, they trained Joe’s son , Bob, at the dealership, and that’s where he gained his experience and drive for automotive retail.
“Bob, being second generation and of a younger, more modern upbringing, decided to branch out with his own franchise in the early 1960s. He fell in love with the Volkswagen brand and, with the help of a angel investor, got his first dealership in 1962. From there he added Porsche, Audi and BMW, and enjoyed a successful career in automotive retail, which ended in 1992 with his retirement.
“Bob’s son Greg entered the business with him after graduating from college in 1984. The Bozzani tradition now spanned three generations, and Greg worked alongside his father while attending NADA Dealer Candidate Academy, learning all aspects of dealership departments.
“After Bob retired and the business was sold, Greg worked at other retail dealerships but eventually managed to break into the long line of dealerships with, among others, a VW dealership. He too had angel investors who helped Greg establish himself in Covina with Volkswagen and Volvo franchises.
“Greg maintained the VW location in Covina for over 25 years and was fortunate to celebrate the family’s 100th anniversary in 2011. During that time, Greg and his father – who is still with us today – have proposed the marketing slogan of, ‘We’ve been in business for over 100 years. We have to do something right.'”
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