Billy Fuccillo Sr., a longtime New York and Florida auto dealer known for his “It’s huge!” advertising slogan and splashy marketing efforts, has died.
Fuccillo, CEO of Fuccillo Automotive Group, died Thursday at his home in Sarasota, Fla., according to his obituary. He was 65.
“The entire Fuccillo family mourns the loss of Billy Fuccillo Sr.,” reads a Friday statement on the Fuccillo Chevrolet Grand Island Facebook page. “Known for his legendary generosity and larger-than-life personality, Billy was thoroughly committed to the communities he served and to the people who knew him as a friend, a father, a husband and a colleague.”
Fuccillo was born in 1956 in Greenport, N.Y., and graduated from Syracuse University, where he played tight end on the football team from 1974 to 1978, according to his obit.
Fuccillo got into auto retail after college. He landed a job in sales at a Chevrolet dealership in Buffalo, N.Y., and later bought a wholesale car business, according to a report in the Fort Myers News-Press in Florida.
He expanded his empire to well over 20 dealerships in New York and other states such as Nevada and Florida, which he entered in 2010, and he sold some stores along the way, said Bob Scalione, Fuccillo’s longtime lawyer in Syracuse, N.Y. Scalione declined to share a cause of death.
“I’ve always said this about Billy — he was the one-of-a-kind,” Scalione said. “He was an icon in his industry. Billy would do things that many car dealers wouldn’t think about doing.”
Some of his ideas led to record sales. Fuccillo is said to have sold 2,020 vehicles in a month at his Fuccillo Hyundai of Syracuse dealership and 500 cars in one day at Fuccillo Auto Mall in New York, according to his obit.
In 1996, he hosted Robbie Knievel, son of motorcycle daredevil Evel Knievel, to jump his motorcycle over 19 cars at a dealership in Adams, N.Y. The promotion led to the sale of more than 500 cars.
He offered freebies to customers buying a car from him — and not just trinkets. The giveaways included cruises and even a house in one promotion.
And in 2012, classic rockers Styx played a concert from a Fuccillo dealership parking lot in Cape Coral, Fla., attracting thousands, according to the Fort Myers News-Press.
“He was the best self-promoter I’ve ever seen,” Barbara Rothschild, executive vice president of the Syracuse Auto Dealers Association, told Automotive News.
Scalione said Fuccillo was generous and helped many people. During the early months of the coronavirus pandemic, the dealership group donated meals to hospitals and essential workers.
This year, the Fuccillo group sold several stores, including two Kia dealerships in Florida. LMP Automotive Holdings Inc. of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., a publicly traded used-car retailer, vehicle subscription business and growing new-vehicle retailer, bought the stores in Port Charlotte and Cape Coral for $68.5 million.
In January, Matthews Auto Group, of Vestal, N.Y., said it had purchased five New York dealerships from the Fuccillo group: three in the Syracuse area and two in the Rochester area. Those stores were two Kia and two Hyundai outlets and one Nissan dealership.
The Fuccillo group currently has 20 dealerships in New York and Florida, according to its website. Scalione said a new Kia dealership is being built in Clermont, Fla. Fuccillo’s son, Billy Jr., is president of the dealership group.
A funeral for Fuccillo, who is survived by wife Cynthia in addition to his son, is scheduled for 11 a.m. Friday at Our Lady of Pompei/St. Peter Church in Syracuse.