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Chadwick Martin

Age: 27
Martin Automotive Group
Bowling Green, Ky.

When Chadwick Martin , then 25, took over the reins of Martin Automotive Group in 2010, the seven Saturn dealerships and two of the three Chevrolet dealerships it owned prior to the recession were things of the past.

He knew changes needed to be made -- fast.

For example, four newly acquired franchises -- two Subaru and two Kia -- located in buildings that formerly housed General Motors brands, were too new to be generating a lot of service business and had too many service advisers and technicians. The stores' used-car departments, which used to take mainly domestic vehicles as trade-ins, had to learn to appraise and sell used Toyotas and Hondas.

Martin counts as his greatest achievement the rebuilding of his family's dealership group, which once had 15 dealerships made up mostly of GM brands. Martin Automotive now has 11 dealerships. In addition to Subaru and Kia, it sells Hyundai, Mitsubishi, Chrysler, Dodge, Jeep and Ram vehicles.

"At the time it was scary," he says of losing so many GM stores as a result of GM's bankruptcy restructuring. "But I wanted to succeed. Determination really weighs in."

Martin's father, Cornelius, who started the group in 1985 -- the same year Martin was born -- was killed in motorcycle accident in 2006.

Martin has a bachelor's degree in business administration from Pepperdine University in Malibu, Calif., and a law degree from Southwestern Law School in Los Angeles, but he says it was his father who taught him most about how to build and manage a business.

"He showed me the importance of relationships and the need to always find new ways to improve in order to stay competitive," Martin says.

An example of trying to remain competitive, Martin says, is that his dealerships' service departments follow up on all service and maintenance work that is called to a customer's attention but turned down.

"At some stores we send letters, some stores we send letters and call," says Martin. And some customers want an e-mail reminder. "I'm assuming that at some point you're going to have to have the work performed, and I want you to get it performed back at our store."

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