SYRACUSE — The man who adopted a HUUUUUUGE! on-air persona to pitch great deals at his large network of auto dealerships has died.
Billy Fuccillo had been ill for a lengthy period and passed away Thursday in Sarasota, Florida, his attorney told Syracuse-area news outlets Friday. He was 65.
“Billy was a giant in the auto industry,” attorney Robert S. Scalione said in a statement quoted by localsyr.com. “He also did a lot of good things for people, and felt good when he was able to change people’s lives.”
Fuccillo was a Long Island native who attended Syracuse University and stayed in the area after graduation, building a network of dealerships under his name.
Advertisements for sales campaigns and discounts at his showrooms featured that one word — huge — that became indelibly associated with the man and his brand, even when he wasn’t in the ad.
Some loved it, some found it grating, but no one would ever mistake a Fuccillo ad for anything else.
Many things about the man and his business were huge — his physical size, his voice, his personality, his drive, his inventory, his promised deals for customers.
Fuccillo told The Gazette in 2009 that the buzzword was born with an offhand remark to Tom Park of Tom Park Media, his sometimes co-star in commercials.
“I just turned to Tom one day and said, ‘It’s huge, Tom. It’s huge,’ and it blew up from there,” Fuccillo said.
He seemed to enjoy the showmanship. The word is pronounced as “huge” in most of America and “yooge” occasionally in the New York City metro region.
It morphed into YOOOOOOG-UH!!! when Fuccillo spoke it, or shouted it.
“Huge” was hype, but it was effective and accurate hype: People remembered it and his dealerships made a lot of sales.
Fuccillo’s obituary notes that Fuccillo Automotive Group is the largest privately held auto retailer in New York and the largest Kia dealer in the world.
Fuccillo holds the records for most Hyundai and most Kia sales in one month and once sold 500 vehicles in a single day at his Auto Mall, near Watertown.
With fame and success came substantial wealth, and Fuccillo became known for philanthropy as well.
Schenectady Mayor Gary McCarthy gave Fuccillo the key to the city in 2017 in recognition of the economic and charitable impact he’d made in the area, and other regions saw similar assistance.
Among the many, many causes and organizations he supported were domestic violence prevention, the Salvation Army, Center for Disability Services, the Quest For Grace Foundation and the Regional Food Bank of Northeastern NY.
During the worst of the COVID pandemic, he sent hundreds of meals at a time to frontline healthcare workers at hospitals in western New York.
William Bruce Fuccillo Sr. was born Jan. 9, 1956, in Greenport. He became the only All-American football player to come out of the high school in that quiet little village on Long Island’s North Fork and attended Syracuse University on an athletic scholarship, playing tight end on the gridiron and earning a degree in marketing in the classroom.
Fuccillo recalled an abrupt transition upon graduation. He had no student loan debt, but no job and no money, either, he told The Gazette. Facing eviction, he sought and didn’t get a sales job at the Chevrolet dealership in nearby Fayetteville. He reapplied repeatedly and was hired the fourth time.
Within a year he was its top salesman, he said.
He moved into the wholesale side of the business a few years later and in 1989 bought his first dealership.
From there things got — really big.
When he spoke to The Gazette in 2009, amid the Great Recession, his annual revenue was running in the $700 million range.
Success, he said, was pursued and earned. He typically slept from 11 p.m. to 4 a.m. and spent most of the other 19 hours of the day working, seven days a week.
Fuccillo expected similar commitment from his employees and rewarded — sometimes extravagantly — those who stepped up.
“It’s very important that if I ask them to work hard I let them play hard,” he said.
Fuccillo Automotive Group has sold off some businesses in recent years but today still operates 21 dealerships in New York and Florida, including nine in The Capital Region and Mohawk Valley.
Billy Fuccillo is survived by his parents, Vito and Joan; his wife, Cynthia; and his son, William Bruce Jr.