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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|POSITION:||General manager, Rick Hendrick Chevrolet-Buick-GMC, Richmond, Va.|
Jason House was installed as general manager of his Chevrolet-Buick-GMC store last fall, just after it was acquired by Hendrick Automotive Group, and he quickly spotted a challenge: throughput.
The previous owner had managed new-car sales with an eye on gross profit, a method that limited sales volume. Low-margin deals were frowned upon, tying the hands of the sales staff even when sales were close.
Instead, House aims for volume. "It's all about turn," he says. "We want to turn every parking space as fast as possible." In the first four months of this year, sales jumped 30 percent, and his was Hendrick's top-performing domestic-brand dealership.
That's not to say he ignores the bottom line. He counts on his finance and insurance department and accessory business to ensure margins are healthy, even if it takes a very competitive price to get customers to sign.
"If you create a really strong finance department, they can pick you up on the back end," he says.
As for accessories, every vehicle on his lot gets outfitted with a uniform set of extras -- all-weather floor mats, running boards, bedliners, door guards and more. If customers decide they don't want to pay for them, they come off.
But more often than not, customers keep them. "The No. 1 reason people don't choose accessories is they don't know they're available," House says. "If you show them, they usually buy them." He figures the average customer opts for $1,000 in accessories.
At the same time, he's working on costs and efficiency in marketing. One key change: The store uses Facebook to target ads to in-market buyers within 50 miles. One recent campaign got 123 clicks to the store's website over 48 hours, at a cost of $54. Getting the same results from a paid search on a site such as Google would have cost a few thousand dollars, he says.
House is a veteran in the retail business. His father owns a Chevrolet store in Stewartville, Minn. He worked there as a teenager, got an automotive marketing degree, decided to get some experience elsewhere and landed a job at Hendrick. He started out running a detail department, moved into sales and was eventually named sales manager at a Chevy store in Cary, N.C.
He hopes to build his store and at some point move into a role overseeing a group of dealerships.