Automotive News 40 Under 40

Frank Fernandez

AGE: 31

POSITION: General manager, Palmetto57 Volkswagen, Miami

Frank Fernandez

If it's a busy day at Palmetto57 Volkswagen and all of the salespeople are helping customers, Frank Fernandez knows what to do.

He may be the general manager, but he used to be a salesman, starting back when he was in high school. If customers want to go on a test drive, Fernandez will take them -- and do it without telling them that he runs the place.

"You can't be afraid to take off your manager hat for the day and really show [the salespeople] how to sell the car," says Fernandez, who already has worked at nine dealerships despite his young age.

"As the manager, I'm supposed to be the best guy there is here. If I'm not able to show them how to do the job in the best way, then I'm not setting a good example."

Fernandez started as general manager at Palmetto57 Volkswagen on Jan. 2, after the store went through a buy-sell and name change last year. As of mid-May, new-car sales were up 31 percent over last year.

Fernandez says he helped that to happen by hiring more people for the sales floor and F&I office. He also changed the pay structure, switching to a formula that he describes as "making it fair for the salesperson and fair for the house."

"I've seen the ones that work and the ones that don't," he says. "A lot of times it's like going to Vegas. You go, and you barely beat Vegas. People will only work up to a certain point and then they give up."

But Fernandez never seems to stop working, says Yvonne Samper, the human resources director at the dealership. She says he never seems to stop smiling, either.

"He cares about everyone," Samper says, "from the person cleaning out the bathrooms to the person who comes in to buy a $50,000 car."

-- Gabe Nelson