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:||Vice president, Piehler Vision Buick-GMC; vice president and general manager, Jaguar-Land Rover Rochester, both in Rochester, N.Y.|
One spring day in 2010, Michael Piehler's life changed forever -- in the middle of his father's backswing 80 yards from the green on the fourth hole of the Valencia Country Club golf course in suburban Los Angeles.
It was at that precise moment that Piehler got up the nerve to ask his father one of the most important questions of his life.
Thinking his father was only taking a practice swing, Piehler blurted out: "Michelle and I have been talking about moving back to Rochester and getting into the family business. Would there be an opportunity for me there?"
Needless to say, Piehler's father, Mike, chunked his fairway shot.
"His response to me was 'Michael, the opportunity is only as good as what you make of it,'" recalls the younger Piehler. The father, who is president of the two Piehler dealerships, goes by Mike, while the son answers to Michael.
Thus did Michael Piehler decide to give up his nearly decadelong career as a Hollywood film location manager in Los Angeles.
He was moving back home to the family business where he had worked odd jobs in his youth. He returned in 2010 to find a dealership crippled by the loss of its cornerstone Pontiac franchise, a result of General Motors' 2009 restructuring.
Piehler's experience as a location manager helped him when he returned to Rochester, a community that had changed drastically with the downsizing of stalwart companies such as Kodak and Xerox.
"I just came from a world of location," he says. That led him to a conclusion: "It was imperative we moved our dealership's location."
To accomplish that, the Piehler Buick-GMC store merged with a Buick-GMC dealership owned by Vision Automotive Group, the largest dealership group in the Rochester area. Thus Piehler Vision Buick-GMC was born in suburban Penfield immediately adjacent to Rochester. The Piehler Jaguar-Land Rover store also moved to the new location and has become Jaguar-Land Rover Rochester. Sales have nearly doubled at the Buick-GMC stores from a combined total of about 600 new and used vehicles before the two Buick-GMC stores merged to 1,006 combined in 2014. Sales at the Jaguar-Land Rover dealership jumped from 158 new and used in 2013 to 211 in the new location in 2014, Piehler says.