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:||Managing partner/general manager of Acura of Peoria (Ariz.)|
Brijen Dave can't stand the sight of blood.
That's why he never became a doctor, despite his family's expectations, he said.
"I come from a very traditional Indian family where everybody besides me is a doctor or a lawyer. My dad is an engineer," Dave said. "They were disappointed in me."
But Dave has succeeded in his chosen career, raising sales and lowering employee turnover at the Acura store he runs for Berkshire Hathaway Automotive, which closed on its purchase of Van Tuyl Group this year.
Dave credits his love of family for his success. He said he treats his employees like family and in turn they excel, profits rise and employee turnover plummets.
"I don't have children, so the employees are like my children," Dave said. "I care about them a lot. I get involved in their families. We work very hard. It's hard on their families and it's a high-stress environment, and I acknowledge it."
Dave earned a bachelor's degree in finance from Rutgers University in 2000. By 2002, he owned a New York advertising agency, Life Media Inc., which specialized in advertising to people of South Asian descent. But in 2004, it went under and Dave was looking for a new career. He had an uncle in the car business in Arizona who encouraged him to check it out.
"My uncle's been in this business since 1986 and he did very well," Dave said. "He gave me the idea that if you really work hard, you can become a partner and own a piece of the store. This sounded like something I could do. And I always loved cars."
In 2004, Dave started selling cars at Pinnacle Nissan in Scottsdale, Ariz., then owned by Van Tuyl Group. His parents struggled to accept it.
"My dad said, 'Why can't you go back to school?'" Dave said. "They were scared and it was tough for them to tell people what I did. That was part of my motivation: I'm going to excel at what I do and prove everyone wrong."
By 2006, Van Tuyl's Acura of Peoria recruited Dave and promoted him to finance director. The store sells about 2,200 new and used vehicles a year. New-vehicle sales have doubled and used sales have jumped 50 percent since 2011.
He rose through the ranks: sales manager, new-car director, used-car director and then general sales manager in 2010. In 2011, Dave was selected to attend the Van Tuyl Dealer Academy. He graduated in 2012 and became the store's managing partner/general manager.
Dave's rise was fast, but he never forgot his roots and a vow he'd made.
"I didn't think managers cared enough about their employees," Dave said. "I always thought: If I become a manager I will care about my employees' lives. They are working 13, 14 hours a day and they should be treated better."
Dave talks to most of his 150 staff members daily. He knows most of their families and the names of their children. He has the entire dealership celebrate employee birthdays, hiring anniversaries and other special occasions.
Dave also goes out of his way to show he cares. "I've woken up at 2 a.m. to bail someone out of jail with my personal money," Dave said.
This past Thanksgiving, Dave was at the hospital when a 36-year-old service adviser died of a heart attack. The dealership contributed Christmas gifts for that staffer's four children.
Dave's wife, Bijal, regularly takes managers' wives to the spa to maintain "a personal relationship with them" and hear ideas on how to improve employees' lives, he said.
Dave also lets salespeople who sell 15 vehicles a month for three straight months set their own schedules.
Said Dave: "If your staff loves the company they work for, they will take care of their customers well."