Apollo Chang, 35
Platform general manager, Hi Tech Motor Cars
Apollo Chang moved often while growing up, and dealing with change has paid dividends in his auto retailing career.
The California-born Chang moved to Missouri, Taiwan, Canada and Hawaii before ending up in Houston for high school. After graduation, he moved to Beijing to study medicine and follow in his parents’ profession.
But after a month there, he realized he didn’t want to become a doctor and returned to Houston to decide on his next move. He applied for at least 10 local jobs, and the only offer he received was from a Group 1 Automotive Toyota dealership.
“It was kind of an accident,” Chang recalled of becoming a car salesman. “Initially I was looking for a summer job.”
But Chang discovered he had a knack for sales. The store’s management gave him a flexible schedule to enroll as a full-time student at the University of Houston while remaining a full-time dealership employee.
Just before graduating, Chang was promoted to the store’s finance department.
He excelled there, and continued in night school to get an MBA. Again, just before he finished, Chang was promoted, this time to F&I director.
From there, he continued to earn promotions within Group 1, including stints as operations manager, regional F&I director, general manager at three dealerships and then market director for central and northwest Texas.
He recalls that the first time he became a general manager, Group 1 CEO Earl Hesterberg told him he had a “double promotion.”
“Please tell me more,” Chang replied. “What’s a double promotion?’”
Hesterberg told him he was going to be a general manager — and that the assignment would be at a Group 1 store in New Jersey. The second part of the promotion was the opportunity to become a hero. The store was struggling, Hesterberg told him, losing more than $200,000 a month, and had gone through five general managers in two years.
Chang took the assignment. Within six months, Chang said, the store was profitable.
“I had a really high tolerance for change,” he said. “I wasn’t as scared of change as the average person would be. When Group 1 told me they needed help with this or that, it wasn’t a big deal for me to move cities or states.”
After 12 years with Group 1, another change took place last year when Chang left for Hi Tech Motor Cars, a private dealership group in Austin, Texas.
The move allowed him to be on the road less and spend more time with his daughter.
He is now platform general manager for seven brands at four stores — Porsche Austin, Audi North Austin, Maserati Austin and a fourth store operating as Bentley of Austin, Lotus of Austin, Aston Martin Austin and Rolls-Royce Motor Cars Austin.
“I want to learn more,” Chang said. “I feel like every time I shift brands, going from import to domestic to luxury to ultraluxury, I learn more.”
— Jack Walsworth