David Bishop, 31
Vice president, Bishop Automotive Group
David Bishop seems to approach the most turbulent period for the auto business in recent memory with the kind of tough but laid-back, no-nonsense resolve one might expect from a family of former farmers.
Bishop Automotive Group in Cheboygan, Mich., was ready for a banner year, said Bishop. Instead, sales were cut sharply in March and April by the pandemic. Now, with sales rebounding strongly, the group faces dwindling inventory and high wholesale prices for used vehicles.
“The inventory shortage is probably what keeps me up at night,” Bishop said.
“But, you know, with this business, there’s always going to be something,” he added with a laugh.
Bishop’s father, uncles and grandfather were potato farmers in Pinconning, Mich., before his dad went to work for a dealership when the younger Bishop was in middle school. By high school, he was working at the dealership, too, washing cars “and helping out any way I could.”
While Bishop attended Northwood University, his father had a chance to buy into a dealership outside of Bay City, Mich. Bishop worked there with him, had a stint at General Motors, and eventually the family bought the stores in Cheboygan that would become Bishop Automotive.
Just before the virus outbreak, the family bought land in Cheboygan to expand the group’s footprint.
Bishop runs marketing and new-vehicle related operations for the group, but his focus has been used vehicles.
He is a student of used-vehicle software entrepreneur Dale Pollak, founder of vAuto. Pollak’s method for quickly turning cars and trucks helped Bishop improve the used-vehicle business at the family’s former dealership and provided the confidence to go into the new venture in Cheboygan, Bishop said. Some of Bishop’s experiences are featured in Pollak’s book, Gross Deception.
Bishop’s own merchandising and management practices have led to annual double-digit percentage increases for the used- and new-car departments since 2015, when the group was founded.
The retailer rebounded from the bleakest days of the coronavirus pandemic: New- and used-vehicle sales set records in June, Bishop said.
Bishop suspects last month’s brisk pace was pent-up demand that will not continue, but he is confident Bishop Automotive Group will keep growing.
“I never projected that there would be this fast of a bounce back,” he said. “But, you know, we’re old farmers, and that’s what we always say: We’re going to make hay while the sun shines.”
— David Muller