Kuhn Honda General Manager Allison Musante has always been a step ahead—sometimes even ahead of herself.
For instance, after only a few weeks in her first auto industry job—a receptionist at a Lincoln-Mercury dealership in New York—college student Musante was promoted to bookkeeper. Then eight months later, her dealer principle asked her to step in as office manager when the person holding the position fell ill. “Fortunately, the state dealer association offered seminars to help me navigate through employment laws, taxes, building a deal, handling paperwork,” she says.
“Honestly, I have been promoted into a lot of positions sooner than I was ready. But I was smart enough to know I didn’t have all the answers; I always have reached out to people and organizations who could help me. And I’ve never been scared to work hard. I’ve made a ton of mistakes, but that’s also how I learned,” Musante says.
When she realized that a dealership’s office is “just an expense,” Musante approached the dealership’s owner about learning what she needed to become finance manager. When he said she should learn the sales side of the business, she worked two nights a week, plus weekends, selling cars—in addition to her regular day job.
Eventually she scored a position as controller at a New York Acura dealership—again, feeling a bit over her head, she says. Her mentor there taught her how to read and analyze spreadsheets and dealership financial reports. “He was the one who told me I was smart enough to be general manager of the store,” Musante says. “And when the GM left a year and eight months later, the owner called my mentor, who said, ‘I’ll get her there.’”
One lesson she has learned, she says, is to “control the message that is out there about you.” As a young, female general manager, she started to receive national attention, including being named to the Automotive News “40 Under 40” list in 2016. Musante created her own website, sought out speaking opportunities and “branded” herself.
Her success led to an interview last fall with Jason Kuhn, head of the Kuhn Automotive Group, who recruited her for her current job as general manager of the company’s Tampa, Fla., Honda dealership.
In addition to running the dealership, Kuhn asked Musante to put together a program to nurture and promote women throughout the four Kuhn dealerships. Her women’s initiative—a work in progress—includes bringing together the company’s female staff for networking opportunities, personal and professional development classes, and community engagement efforts.
When she started a year ago, Kuhn Honda had only two female F&I managers; now the dealership has four female salespeople, one sales adviser and a female service drive process manager. Musante also set up a BDC whose staff is predominantly women. “We are actively recruiting women, but also having a woman as head of the dealership and the face of the store attracts other females to come work for you,” she says.
She views helping other women as part of her role as an industry leader. “I never realized what career potential there was in this business; it was never on my radar until my brother suggested that first receptionist job,” she says. “But we women are very sought after in the industry.”