Giff Hummel, 39
General manager, Mercedes-Benz of Fort Lauderdale
Giff Hummel was born to retail.
The general manager at Mercedes-Benz of Fort Lauderdale in Florida is a third-generation auto industry retailer. “I always had that car blood in me,” Hummel said.
Under Hummel’s stewardship, the store won the 2018 Mercedes-Benz Best of the Best award, which recognizes the brand’s dealerships for top performance in sales, service and parts and customer service.
Hummel has focused on growing the store’s used-vehicle business. In 16 months, used sales volume grew 11 percent, while store profitability rose 12 percent.
“We started looking at every trade as a possible retailable unit,” Hummel said. “We took the blinders off of just keeping units that were still under manufacturer warranty.”
The focus on used-vehicle sales proved wise, given shrinking demand — and margins — on new vehicles.
“Even a couple of years ago, we could see what was going to happen with new-car sales,” Hummel said. “So that was the time to start fine-tuning our skill sets and making sure we were prepared to sell used cars.”
After entering AutoNation’s manager-in-training program in 2004, Hummel did what he knew best — began working in the parts department of a Chevrolet dealership. From there, he moved across eight AutoNation stores in Florida gaining experience in service, sales and F&I.
Hummel says auto retailing is in transition, fueled by shifting consumer shopping preferences and the emergence of new retail models. Like many dealers, he has embraced technology as a way to adapt his business to the winds of change.
“How do we continue to drive the use of technology into the retailing experience — not only from a consumer standpoint, but also a business process?” Hummel said. “How do we leverage technology that’s out there to really wow the customer with a sales or service experience?”
Hummel offers an example of how technology can be used to wow customers.
Service advisers at Mercedes-Benz of Fort Lauderdale have iPads, allowing them to pull up vehicle information and answer customer questions on the go.
The iPad is “pretty much an extension of their desk,” Hummel said. “Advisers can complete 80 to 90 percent of the interaction with the guest at the service drive.”
Faster feedback improves the customer experience, which drives retention and loyalty.
The focus on the customer is a lesson Hummel learned early, growing up watching his parents run a Napa Auto Parts store in Lewisburg, Pa.
“It all comes down to the interaction you have with customers, whether you’re selling aftermarket parts or you’re selling $100,000 cars,” Hummel said.
He also learned about the importance of employees to the success of a business. “I work for 150 associates every day when I come in here,” Hummel said. “If they are not successful, I’m not successful.”
— Urvaksh Karkaria