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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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Brian Godfrey

AGE:35
POSITION:President, Pat Milliken Ford, Redford, Mich.

Brian Godfrey began working at his grandfather's Ford dealership at age 13, but he was unsure about making a career in the family business until a few years into his time at the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School of Business.

"I intentionally went to college away from here to give myself that opportunity to do something else," said Godfrey, who earned his degree in business management and legal studies. "By the time I was a junior in college, I knew I was ready to come back. I think I'm much happier in the car business than being an attorney."

This year, he succeeded his father, Bruce, as president of Pat Milliken Ford, which he said is the brand's seventh-largest store in the country.

He's also in his first year as chairman of the Ford National Dealer Council. Godfrey believes he's the youngest person to hold that position, one that involves working on behalf of many dealers who started selling cars before he was born.

He called his selection as chairman "very humbling," given his age and experience level, and recognition of his passion and energy for the business. He said a big contributing factor was that he's well connected to all parts of the dealership, having held jobs including receptionist, accountant, marketing manager and general manager.

Since becoming general manager eight years ago, Godfrey said revenue has risen 40 percent for the dealership. It has won Ford's President's Award every year under his management and has the highest loyalty rate among Ford dealers in southeastern Michigan, he said.

Godfrey attributes those results to a focus on the customer experience. He recently streamlined the process for a common service package because customers were frustrated by lengthy, inconsistent waits. And the dealership built a higher-capacity car wash in response to comments from service customers who were surprised their vehicles hadn't been cleaned.

"It wasn't cheap, but many people appreciate that little extra service," Godfrey said. "It doesn't necessarily add to the bottom line, but that intangible's big. I'm a numbers guy, but we balance that vs. trying to put ourselves in the customer's shoes and trying to think about what makes the experience better or worse than the guy down the street."

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