The ability to endure and grow begins with the strength of the foundation. For Ray Brandt, the cornerstones have been his family, his faith, his integrity and his love for people. Recognized today as a leader in the automotive industry, both nationwide and in his beloved Louisiana, Ray is a shining example for character and integrity in building the Ray Brandt Auto Group.
Ray will tell you the early influence of his mother Philomena and father Saxon, his “Uncle Zeke” Bonura and The Brothers of the Sacred Heart were all blessings. Describing his mom as ‘a great person who could sell anything’, she trusted Ray’s early education to the Brothers of the Sacred Heart, where encouraged by his personal faith and their tutelage, he excelled academically. Ray’s mother died of breast cancer when he was only 17 years old, and her brother “Uncle Zeke” stepped up to bat [in fact, Zeke was a Major Leaguer in the late 1930s with a lifetime .307 batting average playing alongside such greats as Joe DiMaggio and Ted Williams].
While Ray dreamed as a youth of playing baseball like his “second Dad”, academics became his pursuit. Graduating from Loyola University in 1969 with an Accounting degree, Ray went on to get his MBA in 1971 by attending night school while also serving an Active Duty stint in the Army and got his CPA in 1972. During this time, Ray was attending Law School – also at night – and was admitted to the Louisiana Bar in 1979.
Ray’s introduction to the automotive business began in 1979 as an advisor to a Datsun [now Nissan] dealership in the New Orleans area owned by a close friend. Asked to evaluate the struggling operation, Ray eventually was given the opportunity to buy his first dealership in 1983. The factory said in order to get the franchise, Ray would have to build a new facility on the Expressway, and he did. From selling only 30 vehicles a month, sales jumped to over 200 the first month in the new location, and Ray was on his way.
Over the next 30 plus years, Ray purchased dealerships in Louisiana and Mississippi, often times approached by the factories to help them with struggling locations. In fact, after purchasing an Infiniti store in Metairie, Louisiana, in 2003, he did so well that he was offered a second store in Mississippi. In 1989, Ray purchased a Dodge store that had been shut down. The Toyota store came on board in 2003, while the Mercedes-Benz dealership in Biloxi was added in 2007. Volkswagen came alongside shortly after, and Porsche opened in 2009. The West Bank locations for Kia and Mazda opened in 2008, and Hyundai was reacquired in 2014. He was awarded a new Volkswagen point in 2012.
Ray Brandt’s skill as a nuts-and-bolts businessman played a major role in the Auto Group’s growth, but he also understood the importance of creating long-term relationships with a company’s two most important resources: customers and employees. Every customer is to be greeted the same: “So glad to see you, what can we do to help?” The salespeople’s main job is to be pleasant and make each visitor feel welcome and at home. For Ray, there is only one standard, and that is whatever makes the customer happy.
Today, there are employees of the Ray Brandt Auto Group who have been with the company for decades. The on-going training programs emphasize the importance of product-knowledge, accurate information and bonding with the customer at every level with a commitment to excellence. The Auto Group’s commitment to supporting community charities, organizations and schools is found everywhere, and includes the entire team. Ray’s wife Jessica, who is the Family Charitable Foundation President, once sold 20,000 raffle tickets by herself for Rummel High School.
Ray Brandt Auto Group is a family-owned business, and ‘family’ is at the heart of the company. When asked what he would say to his grandkids, Ray answered, “Have integrity, be kind to others, care for your neighbor – life is all about how you want to be remembered.”
Come enjoy an ownership experience like none other, welcome to the Ray Brandt Auto Group.