Ronald Bowie, 35
General manager, Lonestar Toyota of Lewisville
Given a choice, Ronald Bowie says he’ll almost always choose the bigger challenge. To some, that might be considered quixotic, but for a guy such as Bowie, who got his start in the business at 16 by laying protective plastic on car seats and sold his first car at 18, it’s a defining part of his character.
In 2017, Bowie was recruited by Hendrick Auto Group to become a general manager in its network of dealerships, and he was given a choice between a struggling Chrysler-Dodge-Jeep-Ram store in Charleston, S.C., or another store that wasn’t struggling.
“I chose to go to the store that was struggling,” Bowie said. After his arrival, the once-struggling store turned a $2.2 million net profit and never missed the aggressive sales goals set by FCA US.
“That’s always been what I’ve taken pride in, to be able to do what a lot of people can’t do, to put in place processes that can fix that store,” said Bowie, now the general manager of Lonestar Toyota in Lewisville, Texas. The secret, he says, is to concentrate on consistent processes, regardless of department, and focus on building talent from within.
“Turnover plays a very big part in the profitability of a dealership,” Bowie said. “You’ve got to find a way to get people to stay. You give people an opportunity, and you grow from within.”
Bowie grew up around the industry. His father is a partner in a Hyundai store in Del City, Okla., and gave him his first opportunity with the job putting plastic on car seats. But Bowie expanded that business to other accounts before heading off to college, and when he would come home on breaks or on the weekends, he would go to the dealership and sell cars on commission. He started the dealership’s Internet sales department in those days, listing cars on Craigslist for his father’s store. Soon, he was doing it for others in the group as well.
Bowie said the COVID-19 crisis has reinforced some early lessons about working in the auto industry.
“I understand we’re all going to experience hard times, but you always have to be prepared. You never know what can happen,” Bowie said. “In January, we never thought this could happen, and we weren’t prepared for it. I think the business in general will change; it will never be the same. That might be that we sell less cars, but we make more profit.”
— Larry P. Vellequette