ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — As a member of a family in its third generation in the auto industry, James Santistevan has seen some big changes in the business.
But that doesn’t mean he can’t change with the times.
“Right now it’s all about the Internet,” said Santistevan of Zia Wholesale Auto. “That’s why I don’t need to be on Coors or Central or Lomas. And I’m going to get qualified buyers.”
Vehicles from Zia Auto have been shipped worldwide, he said.
“We’ve shipped cars to Dubai, Russia, Jerusalem,” Santistevan said. “Business has really changed.”
Santistevan’s grandfather owned a Standard Oil service station in Taos and his father worked at a Toyota dealership in Albuquerque.
That’s where Santistevan cut his teeth in the business as a youngster.
“I worked parts and the lot, wherever I was needed,” he recalled.
But in August 1990, Santistevan decided it was time to venture out on his own and he bought the dealership in shouting distance of Coronado mall on Menaul NE.
“I just began to feel like I wasn’t in control of giving the customer the best deal that I could,” he said. “Here we give them a 150-point inspection and we give them the best deal that we can.”
To further enhance the service, in 2003 Santistevan bought the neighboring Pete’s garage, and several years ago, he partnered with NAPA Autoparts.
Both decisions have paid significant dividends, he said, particularly the latter one.
“We can offer a 24-month, 24,000-mile warranty and if people are traveling, they can get their parts anywhere through NAPA,” Santistevan said. “It’s a national brand and it’s well known. Our business has really been helped by the relationship. It’s a great partnership and we did it on a handshake.”
When it comes to the cars in the lot, buyers will find everything from BMWs to Mercedes-Benzs to SUVs.
“You won’t find any Ford Tauruses out here,” Santistevan said. “We sell cars that people want.”
And customers could soon see a fourth generation of Santistevan on the lot, he said.
“My kids are really into it,” he said. “They go to buy cars with me and races. They just love it.”