Jason Vena, 37
General manager, Lexus of Bellevue
Achievement: Transitioned dealership to one-price model while boosting F&I
Jason Vena is something of a rock star inside Lexus of Bellevue after having successfully moved the store to a one-price model while boosting F&I revenue and used-car sales.
He's also something of a rock star outside the Seattle-area dealership, as the singer in the pop-rock group Acceptance, which reunited recently and released a new album this year.
"Everybody at work thinks it's pretty funny because we've got a music video," Vena said. "They'll see it at the gym or something and go: 'I saw my boss at the gym today. Great.' "
Vena sees his real claim to fame as being "a third-generation auto professional."
His career in the car business overlapped with that of his late grandfather Frank Vena, who sold Cadillacs until age 92. It has also overlapped with his father's: Michael Vena was the general manager of the competing Mercedes-Benz store before retiring.
"I've had multiple customers that have either bought from my grandfather or my dad who come in and say: 'I want to work with Mr. Vena.' "
The younger Vena started working his way through O'Brien Auto Group a little over a decade ago, putting his music ambitions on hold. He worked in service at Lexus, parts at Acura and sales at Toyota before circling back to the Lexus store, where he was promoted to general manager in late 2015.
That corresponded with the store's move to the Lexus Plus retail experience program, which uses one point of contact for the entire sales process and upfront, no-negotiation prices on cars, parts, accessories and service.
Vena likes the customer-focused model and worked to make it a success by growing revenue throughout the store, especially aftermarket sales.
"If you spend two to three hours with a customer and have great rapport, and we train you right, then you'll have many opportunities to talk to the customer about things that really matter to them," he said. "And then you'll be able to sell these products to them and they'll be happy."
Average F&I revenue about doubled on new cars to $2,000 per unit and on used cars to $1,400. And Vena says that's not done by pushing dealer reserve or markups from the factory.
Vena also streamlined used-car reconditioning to get cars turning faster, and he invested in better inventory.
"We've seen our used-car department increase from about 90 cars a month to 120 cars a month this year, year over year, so that's a huge success," Vena said. Service sales and customer repair orders have risen 12 months straight.
Michael O'Brien, dealer principal at Lexus of Bellevue, said Vena "has revolutionized the sales process at one of the highest-volume Lexus stores in the country."
Sure, Vena is proud of the numbers, but it all comes down to pleasing his audience, whether he's singing in front of a screaming crowd or serving "guests" at the hushed dealership.
"Your competitor is not the Lexus dealer down the street. Your competitor is Nordstrom or Neiman Marcus," Vena tells his staff. "If you come here and have a different experience from their's, then we're not meeting expectations."