Allison Palmgren, 28
Business manager, Performance BMW
Allison Palmgren wants to be general manager of a Hendrick Automotive Group dealership by the time she is 40.
At 28, she is off to a good start. A business manager at Performance BMW in Chapel Hill, N.C., Palmgren has been with Hendrick only since June 2008, but she has already won several internal awards for performance.
Palmgren joined Performance BMW as a client adviser, moved to Internet sales and then into finance. As part of her job she does paperwork for leased and finance cars, sells warranties and does vehicle appraisals.
She grew up in Michigan and graduated in 2008 with a degree in automotive marketing from Northwood University in Midland, Mich. -- many of her classmates there were the children of car dealers.
The domestic automotive industry was hit hard by the recession so Palmgren decided to head south to work for Hendrick.
She interned at Toyota and Honda dealerships but had her eye on a luxury brand.
"I think I am a good fit," Palmgren said. "It isn't just 'here are your keys and goodbye.' In a Toyota or Honda environment, it is slam bam and get them out."
At Hendrick BMW stores, "it is a much more customer-focused environment where you spend more time with people," Palmgren said.
Eventually, the new-vehicle buyers and lessees end up in Palmgren's department, where she sells them a variety of F&I products, including assorted insurance packages, extended warranty and maintenance programs, and tire and wheel protection. Nationally, a dealership on average makes a profit of $800 per customer in finance and insurance transactions, Palmgren said. Her average last year was $1,630 per customer -- the fourth highest among the 230 F&I managers at Hendrick's 90 U.S. dealerships, she said.
The key to sealing a deal is not only making the customer feel he or she is getting a good value, Palmgren said.
"It's about the whole experience," she said. "They have to feel comfortable, that they are the only thing in the world that matters."
-- Diana T. Kurylko