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Auto retailing thrives on new. New vehicles. New marketing methods and advertising campaigns. And new blood. Meet the men and women who make up the fourth annual Automotive News listing of 40 Under 40 Retail: 40 up-and-comers who already are making their mark in dealerships. These individuals are applying the lessons of the past with the techniques of today to carry vehicle retailing into the future. And they're delivering astounding results.

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Automotive News 40 Under 40

Neal Wheat

POSITION:Used-car manager, Gloucester Toyota, Gloucester, Va.

Neal Wheat knew that taking 14 days to get a used car reconditioned and ready for retail sale was just too long.

So shortly after he became used-car manager at Gloucester Toyota in 2012, Wheat concentrated on buying later-model, cleaner used vehicles. He worked more closely with the dealership's service and clean-up managers and got them to focus on getting those vehicles in and out of their departments quickly and efficiently.

The results: Time needed to get a vehicle retail-ready was cut to four days and the store's used-vehicle sales doubled to 60 per month.

"I came from the service side of things and I knew all the guys in the service department. I knew all their processes, and I knew how to speak the same language," said Wheat, who had worked in virtually every department of his family's dealership prior to becoming used-car manager. "But it was really just being conscious every day of managing the process and managing the flow."

Wheat concentrates on acquiring cars and trucks that are typically 2 or 3 years old, with around 30,000 miles on their odometers. His predecessor heavily favored 5- to 7-year-old vehicles with 80,000 or more miles on them.

To get the vehicles posted online quickly, he takes photos of them before they are reconditioned.

He also implemented a simple, yet structured sales process.

New hires are told to introduce themselves and then do a need-assessment to find out what type of vehicle customers are seeking. That generally means asking customers what vehicle they now drive and what they like and dislike about it.

Salespeople then ask consumers about their budget requirements. Wheat said the process is deliberate, laid-back and low-pressure.

He adds: "It sounds silly -- if you don't do it every day -- that we have to have a process to ask people what they want, but we do."



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