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Q&A with
Friendly Acura of Middletown

General Manager Colin O’Brien shares why he strives to treat staff even better than clients, how the dealership earned Acura’s #1 Client Satisfaction Excellence Award, and what he thinks about the future of the Acura brand.

Colin, you’ve worked in all areas of the dealership, from service and sales to finance. How has this experience shaped your current position as General Manager of Friendly Acura?

I’ve worked in the automotive field since I was a teenager – starting out literally sweeping floors in our Honda store – so I know all areas of the business. More than 30 years later, I’m lucky to say I’m just as passionate now about the industry as I was back then. I’m definitely a car guy!

What’s your take on Acura’s return to Precision Crafted Performance?

We’re very excited about where the brand is going. For a number of years it seemed Acura lost its way in uniquely positioning itself. Speaking as someone who owns an original NSX, I believe going back to Acura’s roots as a performance brand is exactly where it needs to go.

I’m also really excited about the product. The new RDX knocked it out of the park and the Type S Concept is spectacular.

Tell us about the name of the dealership, “Friendly Acura.”

Our name is a promise. It’s an assurance to every client that we do things right. And we do right by every client, which means meeting them on their terms.

The Friendly name goes back to the 1960s with the opening of Friendly Honda in Poughkeepsie. That store is a powerhouse and over the years it established Friendly as the premier auto retail brand in the mid-Hudson Valley.

Dealer Principal Eric Kahn (pictured here with Colin) took his philosophy into Friendly Acura, which he purchased in December 2015. That year the store sold 385 units. We’re now on track to sell 1,000 units by the end of 2019. It’s been an amazing transformation.

What does the “Friendly” brand promise look like in practical application?

The store has a unique team culture and truly offers a “friendly” experience to its clients. After working there many years, I’ve tried to bring that culture and consumer experience to Friendly Acura of Middletown.

As an example, we’ve sold several cars to clients who’ve never set foot in our store. We’ll do business over the phone or the internet to respect the client’s time. I personally have driven to a client’s home to deliver parts or change a tire.

We make it as convenient as possible for people to do business with us.

Friendly Acura is a state-of-the-art facility. What are some of the benefits you’ve seen from investing in the dealership?

The Friendly organization believes that having a superior facility is an important part of providing the best consumer experience in the market … and puts its money where its mouth is. When Friendly acquired the dealership, it renovated it and added capacity quickly, making it perhaps the nicest facility in the Middletown market.

In this business, image is everything. We think of our dealership as our house and we treat it as such. Everything is clean, modern and organized. It mirrors the quality of the Acura brand. And we carry this theme throughout the entire dealership experience.

For example, our dealership family is a melting pot of different cultures. That’s important because it’s reflective of the world we live in. Our clients see that we’re evolved and diverse and I believe that makes them feel comfortable and welcome here.

Tell us about your dealership’s overall culture and philosophy.

Friendly Acura is all about teamwork. It’s about taking care of employees and clients, and doing the right thing. I’m lucky that I learned this principle early and from the best: VP of Operations Dominick Di Capua and Eric Kahn. They’ve taught me that the best leaders come from the back, meaning that it’s about staying focused on the work and the people, not the titles. Being disciplined and extraordinarily consistent is a key to the group’s success.

To my coworkers I think, ‘I’m your equal; I’m here to assist you.’ I think that mindset sets the stage for very successful working relationships: I deliver car parts. I change tires. I do what needs to be done, just like every other team member here.

You have 111 reviews and a 4.8-star rating on DealerRater, along with an impressive showing on Google. When a bad review comes in, how do you handle it?

We’re really proud of those scores because we don’t ask for reviews. We tell our clients to just fill out the survey and be honest. So to me, those reviews are genuine and reflect the level of care we provide.

Fortunately we don’t get a lot of bad reviews, but when we do, we call the client and ask what happened. Almost all of the time, there’s been some kind of miscommunication. Our policy is to give the client the benefit of the doubt. If we feel the client is being fair, we go way above and beyond to favor them.

Congratulations on winning Acura’s #1 Client Satisfaction Excellence Award in the Service Department. What are the service practices that earned you that award?

We have a “white-glove” approach in the Service Drive. Every morning, we review the service schedule before clients come in so we’re prepared. When the clients arrive, we stand and greet them.

Standing up is a small thing but it sends a strong message that says, ‘we’re glad you’re here’ and that makes a huge difference. Once again, we truly strive to be consistent every day. We want each and every client to have a great experience.

What advice would you give other dealers about running an overall successful Acura dealership?

Treat your people with care and compassion. In fact, treat your staff better than you treat your clients because that’s where your strength lies – in your people.

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3475 Route 6 • Middletown, NY 10940

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Today's Hours:

Open Today! Sales: 9am-8pm

Open Today! Service: 7:30am-5pm

Open Today! Parts: 7:30am-5pm

Friendly Acura of Middletown 41.4200148, -74.430821.