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.
40 Under 40 Video
|POSITION:||General manager, AutoNation Chrysler Jeep West of Golden, Colo.|
After two years as a competitive freestyle skier, Nick Schnelle turn-ed to his childhood experience at his father's Indiana dealership.
His dad had sold the family dealership years earlier, but Schnelle remembered the fun he'd had playing with parts he'd swiped from the parts department. He went to a Ford store in Colorado Springs, Colo., starting as a service valet before being promoted to Quick Lube adviser and finance-and-insurance assistant.
Schnelle credits his first sales job at a no-haggle Saturn store for sowing the seeds of his success.
He left Saturn when he moved to Texas to be near his fiancée and got a job at a Sonic Automotive dealership. In his first two weeks on the job, he sold 17 cars. His Sonic bosses, who'd teased him about not having negotiating experience, swiftly promoted him to sales manager.
"What they didn't realize is that most of those 17 cars I sold at full sticker because I didn't know how to negotiate," Schnelle said. "You came from an environment where in order to sell a car, you had to build value in it. You didn't have the crutch of saying, 'Hey, we'll lower the price to get you to buy this car.'"
When Schnelle and his wife returned to Colorado in 2005, he joined AutoNation Inc., working in sales management at two Chrysler-Jeep stores in suburban Denver. AutoNation trained him at its General Manager University and in 2011 promoted him to lead its Chrysler-Jeep store in Littleton, Colo.
Sales and profits rose each month as the store gained market share. Repairing broken relationships at the store and resolving tension between departments led to the turnaround, Schnelle said.
"It's something that can wreck a store if everyone's against each other, and I've seen it a million times," he said.
Because of the gains in Littleton, AutoNation gave Schnelle a shot to run the bigger Chrysler-Jeep store in Golden after a year. In 2014, the Golden store's new-car volume rose 32 percent, and profits jumped 40 percent to a store record, said Schnelle, who aims to someday become an AutoNation market president and eventually an executive at corporate headquarters. His dealership now sells as many as 230 new vehicles a month.
"We were able to take a lot of market share," he said. "We were able to create a great relationship between the variable and fixed-ops side of the business."