Billy Hayes, 43
Division vice president of regional operations, Nissan Group
Big break: Being promoted from sales consultant to sales manager at a Decatur, Ga., dealership
Billy Hayes helped make his first Nissan sale at age 11.
Hayes’ grandmother was looking to replace her late husband’s Jeep Wagoneer. Her choices at the time: Toyota 4Runner, Isuzu Trooper and Nissan Pathfinder.
“I did all the comparisons and ultimately we ended up buying the Pathfinder,” Hayes said.
Hayes hasn’t stopped selling Nissan vehicles since.
As division vice president of regional operations, Hayes, 43, is Nissan’s liaison with its U.S. dealers, and he said there’s never a dull moment.
“We’ve got 1,082 dealers, we’ve got 1,082 personalities,” he said. “We have 217 major markets that we sell cars in, and they all have a little bit of a different flair.”
For a guy who is “high energy” and who doesn’t “require a lot of sleep,” Hayes is well-suited for the job.
“I love being around cars all day, interacting with people,” he said.
To underscore his gearhead cred, Hayes said he was a Car and Driver subscriber at age 7. “I would read it cover to cover,” he said.
Hayes has had a swift ride up the Nissan ranks. Over the past two decades, he’s had human resources, sales and marketing, administration and finance roles.
“I’ve developed a reputation as somebody willing to take on almost anything,” Hayes said.
But the ascent began modestly.
“I was a little lost as a young professional,” Hayes recalled. “I had a couple jobs that I was pretty good at, but didn’t really love.”
One day, Hayes walked into a Decatur, Ga., dealership, where he had bought a 2001 Maxima, and asked about a sales job.
“It was a 15-second interview process and I started selling cars a couple days later,” Hayes said.
Hayes, who has an engineering science degree and an MBA, had found his calling.
“I loved the thrill of closing a deal, making a friend, getting referrals from people because I treated them well,” he said. Before long, he received a promotion to sales manager.
Hayes said he was drawn to Nissan because of its performance roots. His first new car was a 1996 Nissan 200SX SE-R.
“That car, I absolutely loved,” he said. “People are attached to their car because it’s an extension of their personality.”
— Urvaksh Karkaria