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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

Shannon Hammons

AGE:39
POSITION:E-commerce director, Harbin Automotive, Scottsboro, Ala.

Nearly every weekend from February to December, the small town of Scottsboro in northeastern Alabama teems with sports fishermen in search of giant bass -- and, for bow enthusiasts, the grass carp.

That puts Scottsboro, located between two dams on the Tennessee River, squarely in truck country.

Shannon Hammons has become expert in using the Internet to find truck buyers, and passenger-car buyers as well, within 100 miles of Harbin Chevrolet and Harbin Ford-Lincoln in Scottsboro.

A little over two years ago, Hammons took over as head of the dealerships' Internet department. At the time, the department was selling about 40 new and used vehicles a month.

Hammons opened a business development center to follow up on leads and set appointments. Now, his four-person BDC and four-person Internet sales department are selling 120 vehicles a month with a goal of hitting 150 by the end of the year.

Hammons is advertising aggressively outside Scottsboro, in places such as Chattanooga and all the way to the outskirts of Atlanta, to find buyers, he said. Scottsboro, a town of 14,000, generates few walk-ins.

About 65 percent of the stores' buyers are not local, Hammons said. Pickups and SUVs make up about 65 percent of all sales, he said.

Hammons said he now spends 85 percent of the stores' $38,000 advertising budget mostly for paid search ads on Google and to create blogs and website landing pages to gain high positions on Google when shoppers look for various vehicles.

"It seems the more we spend [on digital marketing], the more we make," Hammons said.

Bottom line: The Internet department accounted for about $2 million in gross profits for the stores in 2014. The department is on pace for $3.5 million this year, Hammons said.

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