Kristopher Nielsen, 32
Sales operations and customer experience manager, Soave Automotive Group
Kristopher Nielsen grew up the son of general managers at different dealerships.
With his mother at a Mazda store and his dad at a Lincoln-Mercury dealership in the suburbs of Kansas City, the car business ran through his blood. But Nielsen was determined to make it on his own.
“When I was growing up, I didn’t want to be the kid of the GM working at the dealership,” he said.
Without telling his parents, he got his first job as a porter at a Toyota dealership. He sold cars during college summers at another store before taking an internship at Mazda North America.
After college, Nielsen struggled with whether to work on the retail or the automaker side of the business.
Marion Battaglia, president of Soave Automotive Group, with stores in the Kansas City metro area in both Missouri and Kansas, offered Nielsen advice — and a job in digital marketing management. Nielsen accepted and is still at the dealership group nine years later.
In November, Nielsen took over sales management for Soave’s Maserati and Alfa Romeo franchises. New-vehicle sales doubled in November, December and January compared with the year-earlier period — before the coronavirus pandemic began to affect traffic and sales this spring. In his prior role, Nielsen helped increase customer appointments for the group sixfold from 2013 to 2019.
Nielsen also organized a series of social media challenges that gained the group millions of impressions.
In 2013, he used Twitter to organize a challenge in which a Porsche Panamera raced a Southwest Airlines jet from Kansas City to St. Louis. In a 2011 challenge, a Jaguar XJL raced an Amtrak train from Kansas City to Chicago. The social media events together generated more than 500,000 impressions. The goal was to get people talking about Soave Automotive Group in a positive and engaging way.
The dealership group’s social media activity is divided between posts designed to drive engagement, about 80 percent, and posts touting promotions designed to drive short-term business goals, about 20 percent.
“We’ve done a good job at onboarding the majority of our owner base into our social channels,” Nielsen said.
— Whitney McDonald