For Bobby Gery, the choice to drive cars or sell them for a living was settled by his fiancee's mother.
"I was in my second season as a full-time driver in NASCAR Modified when Ashley's mom, Linda, started calling me 'unemployed bum,'" Gery says with a laugh. "She said it with a smile, but I knew what she meant."
So Gery went back to Priority Auto Group, where he had worked for five years previously, rising from salesman to general manager at a Saturn store in Norfolk, Va.
For the past 18 months, he has managed the five-person finance department at Priority Toyota in Chesapeake, Va., raising the dealership's average sales of finance and insurance products per vehicle to $1,250 from $900.
"He's very bright and very quick," says former boss Jeffrey Coleman, general manager of nearby Priority Acura. "When someone goes through the process and leaves happy, that's a good thing."
Gery personally averages F&I sales of more than $1,700 per vehicle.
Many dealership personnel think Toyota buyers are resistant to F&I products because they have such faith in their reliability, but Gery dismisses that.
"Toyotas are great, but I don't think customers of any brand are more apt to buy or not," he says. He describes his efforts as selling peace of mind.
His sales keys are planning, having a consistent process and focusing on each customer. Gery prepares each time much he would for a NASCAR race.
"It's not repetitive for the person sitting in front of you," he says. "I try to make the experience as big a deal as possible."
Fiancee Ashley has graduated from medical school, and the couple will marry in September. Eventually, Gery would like to open his own high-end shop to restore vintage cars and fabricate racers.
Gery is still racing NASCAR Modifieds, but on a spot basis. It's hard for the son of a NASCAR pit crew chief to give up the track entirely.
"I'm full-time F&I and part-time NASCAR," he says. "I've found a home. And Ashley's mom? Now she calls me 'Bobby.'"
-- Jesse Snyder