Ticket To Ride
There may be no greater symbol of the American Dream than the automobile, and there may be no greater example in Hawaii of that dream coming to life than the life of Peter Fukunaga and his company’s rise from a humble two-car repair shop in sleepy Haleiwa to a billion-dollar global corporation.
His company — today we know it as Servco Pacific Inc. — had to diversify in the frugal days of the Depression, and he found himself in the financing business for those short of cash, which later grew into a myriad of fields from home appliances, insurance and even snack foods. But what Hawaii knows it best for is its car dealerships.
Today it maintains 11 dealerships in the Islands and another dozen in Australia, and its dominance in the auto-sales field extends beyond just its sheer numbers. Last year Servco Pacific was awarded Best Auto Dealership by Honolulu Star-Advertiser for the sixth year in row, featuring the best salesman again in Paul Robotti, and the award the company is most proud of is Hawaii Business magazine’s No. 1 Best Place to Work in the Large Business Category.
You see, for Fukunaga, who lives on posthumously in a business school scholarship fund named in his honor and in the blood of his grandson CEO Mark Fukunaga, there are three principles by which his business is guided: Satisfy customers, have dedicated employees and make a personal commitment to hard work. Each of these principles feed off one another, according to Servco Pacific Inc. president Rick Ching.
“To provide great customer service, you have to have engaged and dedicated employees,” says Ching, who has been with the company since 1985 and rose to president last year. “Hopefully, they are having fun, too, because it is hard to do a great job in customer service unless you really like what you are doing. So we work really hard on employee engagement and satisfaction. This lets our employees feel connected to Servco and adds to our ability to provide great customer service.”
One way Servco does this is through Family Fun Day, where employees, around a thousand in the state alone, their families and friends gather to have a party. This year’s will be held at the 50th State Fair. Servco buys out the entire fair, including the rides, games and food, and arms everyone with scrips to enjoy whatever they would like.
Ching estimates there will be between 2,000 to 3,000 people streaming throughout the Aloha Stadium parking lot.
This idea of spreading the love extends beyond the Servco family and customers to the community at large. Servco recently sold the 500,000th car in its history, and to commemorate such a milestone, most companies would have a balloon drop and give that car away to one lucky customer — but not Servco. It decided instead to mark the occasion by giving money to charities in the state and asked the public to help them pick which ones.
“We would rather keep our community focus and give back to the community, and instead gave out $250,000 to different charities, 10 gifts of $25,000 each,” says Ching, who started with the company in corporate finance before moving over to the automobile side in 2001. “We got nominations from the general public, 3,700 in all. We have a long history of being very involved in the communities in which we do business. That always has been our philosophy going back to our founder.”
This philosophy trickles down to the employees who are not just giving back financially, but dedicating thousands of hours to community service as well. The three main focuses of the company’s charitable outreach is decided by the employees themselves, and currently they are youth services, animals and people with special needs.
On the education outreach side, there are two components, the first being the Fukunaga Scholarship Foundation that provides monies to students seeking a business degree. It was founded in 1950 and envisioned as a way to build business leaders for Hawaii’s future. The students need have no affiliation with Servco, and it provides $4,000 annually for four years. There currently are 40 students from Hawaii using these scholarships across the U.S.: “the requirement being they are pursuing a business degree with the idea that they will return to Hawaii and further the businesses and economy of Hawaii,” says Ching, who was enshrined last year in the Hall of Honor at Shidler College of Business.
The second part is Servco Foundation for spouses and children of Servco employees, which provides one-year renewable $4,000 scholarships to help the families take the next step in their careers. The foundation has provided more than 200 of these during its three decades in existence.
None of these things can happen, however, without the cars, and there is no single bigger showcase for them than First Hawaiian International Auto Show slated for March 24-26 at the Hawaii Convention Center.
“It is a benefit to our customers to go to one location to see all the vehicles — there are no pressure sales. It is a great family event and it is exciting for all the dealers,” says Ching, who will be displaying 22 Toyota, 11 Lexus and six Subaru models.
Most notably from Toyota will be its prototype CH-R (Coupe High-Rider), which is smaller than its Rav-4 but with more punch, all of the new Toyota safety features and a 7-inch touchscreen display.
Lexus will be showing off its new flagship coupe, the LC, which comes in both gas and hybrid varieties, and with 354 total system horsepower can go from 0 to 60 in just 4.7 seconds.
Subaru will be trotting out its all-new Impreza that has been redesigned for 2017 and comes equipped with the company’s new Eye-Sight suite of safety features, including adaptive cruise control, automatic pre-collision braking and lane-departure warning with lane-keeping assist.
Servco will be just one of the companies represented at the show this year, as there will be 350 cars on display, from the most economical to the most fantastical.
Ferraris, Maseratis, Lamborghinis and Bentleys will be strutting their stuff courtesy of Velocity Hawaii to help stoke the dreams of car fans, along with antique beauties from the Aloha Region AACA, such as a 1954 Doretti, 1960 MGA, 1961 Jaguar XK150, 1962 Austin-Healey 3000, 1963 Porsche 356, 1967 Jaguar E-Type, 1969 Lotus Elan +2, 1972 Ferrari Dino 246, 1907 Ford Model N, 1930 Ford Model A, 1931 Cord L-29, and 1959 Chevrolet El Camino.
The show starts at noon Friday and 10 a.m. over the weekend. Tickets are on sale for $10, with discounts for military ($8), senior citizens ($7), and free admission for children under age 12. For tickets and more information, visit autoshowhawaii.com.