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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

Gregory Kostern

AGE:29
POSITION:Business operations director, Johnson Automotive, Raleigh, N.C.

Gregory Kostern doesn't think dealing with the F&I office should be scary for the customer.

"We have a very different style than a lot of other places," he said. "We're very conversational here. We don't just sit there and drill a customer."

That style helped Johnson Automotive's eight F&I departments break $1 million in monthly revenue for the first time in December. The previous record: $900,000.

Since then, the departments have posted seven straight months of record-breaking performance, breaking $1 million twice more.

Kostern started selling cars at the dealership where his dad was an F&I director; he always wanted to move from sales to F&I.

"That sales background was really helpful when I made the switch to F&I, so I decided I needed a team of highly motivated, successful salesmen to move into my F&I departments," he said.

Johnson Automotive CFO Koreen Thompson said Kostern's success has a lot to do with the F&I team he's built.

"Greg is very active in finding qualified individuals for the job, which is really a talent these days," she said. "He's driving a closer relationship between the sales and F&I teams."

Kostern said he takes a special interest in all of his employees to ensure he has the best team possible. "I'm a big supporter of my people. I'm always assessing people's weaker areas and looking for the places we can make improvements," he said.

His next goal is to bring Johnson's F&I departments into the digital age by providing tutorial and information videos for consumers on the dealership group's websites.

To give F&I a personal touch, the videos would be hosted by Johnson F&I representatives. He said: "We can put a face on the department and personalize the experience."

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