Fred Emich IV, 31
Managing partner, general manager, Emich Volkswagon
Despite deep family roots in the business, fourth-generation dealer Fred Emich IV wasn't always sure he was meant for a career in auto retail.
But by age 25, he was running his own store, a Volkswagen dealership in Denver that he had bought with his father and another business partner in 2006.
Within the next five years, Emich more than doubled the store's new- and used-vehicle sales to more than 2,000 units a year.
By age 29, he had been named to the Volkswagen National Dealer Advisory Council and had received the German automaker's Wolfsburg Crest Club award, an honor given each year to VW's top 50 dealers ranked by U.S. new-vehicle sales.
"He has accumulated a great group of young salespeople," said Bob Colbert, vice president of Emich Automotive, which also owns a Chevrolet store. "He's promoted from within. They're all 20 and 30 years old. He taught them, trained them."
Emich's family involvement in auto retailing dates to his great-grandfather, a dealer in Chicago. In 1975, his father and great-uncle opened an Oldsmobile store in Denver, eventually expanding the business to nine stores before selling them to AutoNation USA in 1996.
But it wasn't until after college and a stint working in finance in New York City that Emich decided to try the car business.
In 2004, he took a job as a finance manager at a Toyota dealership, and later, held similar roles at Subaru and Chrysler-Jeep stores.
When he took over the VW store -- which, he says, looked "tattered" at the time -- it was selling about 800 new and used vehicles a year.
To boost sales, Emich doubled the store's monthly marketing spend to $40,000 and later raised it to $100,000. He increased emphasis on social media and the Internet, and aggressively stocked the lots to ensure ample supplies of new and used vehicles.
He says his sales approach is low-key.
"It's a low-pressure environment," he says. "When you pull in, you're not going to have three people at your door."
-- Christina Rogers