Carlos Sandoval, 37
Partner and fixed operations director, Bartow Ford
Selling things has always come easy to Carlos Sandoval, ever since he helped hawk his mother’s lamp at a family yard sale outside their Arizona home as a young child.
“I’ve always had an entrepreneurial spirit,” Sandoval said. “I was always that kid that spoke to everyone. It was a natural fit.”
He didn’t find his true calling, however, until being selected for a full scholarship to Arizona State University through the Doran Community Scholars Program, sponsored by former Ford Motor Co. executive Wayne Doran.
“He introduced me to the automotive world,” Sandoval said. “I feel like there were a couple of key figures in my life that helped me get where I am today, and he was one of them.”
Doran encouraged Sandoval to earn a certificate in automotive entrepreneurship and leadership, in addition to his bachelor of science degree in business management.
It was through the certificate program that he earned his first internship at Five Star Ford in Scottsdale, Ariz. He remembers the first vehicle he sold: a green Mitsubishi SUV.
Sandoval was hooked. He signed on to Ford’s Automotive Dealership Education Program for Minorities, which involved stints at Ford’s corporate offices in Dearborn, Mich., and at Bartow Ford in Bartow, Fla., beginning in 2005, where he quickly became a natural in the showroom.
“The competitiveness, the family environment — I loved it,” he said.
Then-principal owner Benny Robles Sr. took a liking to Sandoval and helped set him on a path toward ownership. Today, Sandoval is part of a five-person ownership group, which includes Benny Robles Jr.
Today, in addition to his role as a minority owner, Sandoval is the store’s fixed operations director. Under his leadership, the department doubled combined sales revenue for service, parts and body shop from $12 million in 2011 to more than $25 million in 2018.
Sandoval credits his team for the improved performance, although he implemented a number of changes, including an aggressive technician training program to help fast-track qualified candidates for sorely needed positions. He also extended the service center’s closing time from 5:30 p.m. to midnight Monday through Friday.
Sandoval hopes to expand the business so every member of the five-person ownership group can run their own store. He’s excited, not afraid, of the profound changes affecting the industry, including electrification and autonomy.
“With change comes opportunity,” he said. “Technology allows us to service customers in new ways. I’m looking at how I can use these technologies to benefit and grow the business.”
— Michael Martinez