How to survive the credit crisis: Think like a banker

Donna Harris covers retail issues for Automotive News
During the credit crunch, many dealers learned the hard way that they ought to think more like bankers. Bankers tend to be conservative with money.

Rick Hendrick, chairman of Hendrick Automotive Group, seems to have known this all along. He has a history of grooming bankers to run his multistate dealership network.

The Hendrick group just hired Edward Brown III, a retired Bank of America executive, as CFO. Brown will replace Jim Huzl as president and CEO on Jan. 1, 2011. Huzl is retiring after 25 years at Hendrick, where he has held several executive roles.

But just before Huzl landed at the auto retailer in 1985, he was a loan officer and then a vice president with NCNB National Bank, of Charlotte, N.C., a bank that later became Bank of America.

Hendrick says Brown's financial management experience will be an asset to the dealership group, which last year held its seventh-place U.S. rank based on new retail sales of 52,305 units. The dealership group, which had revenues of $3.7 billion last year, is now adding stores.

Nobody had to tell Chairman Rick Hendrick how important credit is to the car business.