Victoria Rusnak grew up in the car business. Her father, Paul Rusnak, launched Rusnak Auto Group more than 50 years ago with a small Triumph dealership in Los Angeles and then a Chrysler-Plymouth dealership in Pasadena. He built the company into a luxury auto dealer empire. But his daughter first pursued her own career as an environmental lawyer and then headed a gun control organization before coming to her father’s car business, first as a legal adviser and then as chief operating officer. She then took a break in 2012 to run for Assembly as a pro-business Pasadena Democrat. She was defeated by Chris Holden and returned to the family business. She took over as chief executive in June and now oversees 15 dealerships that sell 11 luxury auto brands – including Maserati, Rolls-Royce, Bentley and Jaguar – and employ 750 people. Rusnak met with the Business Journal in her headquarters at the company’s Pasadena dealership to discuss her career, thoughts on the auto business, run for office and love of travel.

Question: What was it like growing up in the car dealership business?

Answer: My dad worked all the time and I spent many Saturdays going to work with him. I also got to go on many business-related trips with my father.

What was your first impression of the car dealership business as you were growing up?

It was very family oriented, not the corporate culture you see today. At the meetings I would attend, folks always brought along their families and kids. And, of course, I really grew to love cars.

What was your dream your car?

The 911 Porsche convertible. And I’m driving one right now – I finally got one for my most recent birthday. Of course, now I have a new dream car – one of those on display in the main showroom. (Among the cars there were a Bentley convertible and a Rolls-Royce.)

But you chose to pursue other career options. Why?

When it was time to go to college, I found I didn’t have a desire to go into the family business. Also, like most young people, I had a sense of adventure. So after completing business school at USC, I decided to spread my wings a bit, to venture out of Los Angeles. And my parents were very supportive – I was under no pressure to go into the family business. Of course, I’m pretty sure my father secretly wanted one of his daughters to go into the business.

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