Automotive News 40 Under 40

Benjamin Robles Jr.

AGE: 34

POSITION: Pre-owned director, Bartow Ford, Bartow, Fla.

 
Benjamin Robles Jr.

When Benjamin Robles Jr. became director of the used-vehicle department at Bartow Ford in Bartow, Fla., in 2010, it wasn't unusual for the store to have vehicles on the lot for as long as 130 days.

Those backlogs are a thing of the past. "Presently, we do not have any vehicles over 70 days," says Robles, known as Benny to most of his colleagues.

Says Robles: "Getting my veteran sales team to embrace the new way of doing business in today's used-car market while improving our turn to 13 to 14 times a year has been challenging, but the staff understands this new philosophy."

Robles adopted techniques espoused by Dale Pollak, the founder of vAuto, an online tool for managing used-vehicle inventory. Pollak urges dealers to monitor the market and price their used vehicles based on what the market will bear, making adjustments to keep prices competitive and turn inventory faster. Says Robles: "I'm a big fan."

Formerly, Bartow Ford stressed getting a markup of $4,000 to $5,000 per used vehicle, he says. But under Pollak's approach, says Robles, "You can't do that."

Robles uses the Internet to monitor prices of similar vehicles being sold by other dealers.

"When I started shopping our vehicles on AutoTrader.com, I started noticing we were $2,000 to $3,000 more than the competition," he says. Bartow Ford began adjusting prices to sell vehicles faster.

"The biggest change is that we started addressing our problem units on Day One instead of Day 60 or 70," he says.

Robles credits his father, Bartow Ford General Manager Benjamin Robles Sr., with being his mentor. The elder Robles immigrated to the United States from communist Cuba as a youth. Under his father's tutelage, the younger Robles got to work in every department, from cleaning cars to working in finance. He says his father's progressive attitude made it easier for him to learn the business.

More changes may be ahead. Carlos Sandoval, fixed operations director at Bartow Ford, says of Robles: "He's always keeping in mind what to do for the future."

-- Bradford Wernle