Erikka Tiffani Wells, 38
Sales manager, Town Center Nissan
Erikka Tiffani Wells' love for the car business started with a bad alternator.
When she was a young mother, she worked at a day care. It didn't pay much, but the job let her work and watch her baby daughter at the same time.
When the alternator on her car went, Wells sat in the auto repair shop, frustrated. She didn't have enough to pay for the repairs.
An enterprising Wells asked the service manager whether the shop needed any marketing help. He told her that if she could make oil change coupons and flyers to draw in business, he would make sure her car got fixed.
"It had to be a miracle," Wells said. "That's when my love of the car business got started, because it was about helping people, and that meant everything to me."
Years later, she is striving to continue that ideology in a rapidly evolving industry. She is currently a sales manager at Town Center Nissan in Kennesaw, Ga., an Atlanta suburb.
Wells was hired in November 2019 to help establish the BDC. Just months later, the COVID-19 pandemic struck, but she went ahead with hiring employees.
"Thank God we did because the BDC was able to grow at a time when we were going to need people who were good on their phones," she said.
Sales has been the name of Wells' game ever since she heard what was — in her opinion — a terrible advertisement for a "buy here, pay here" store. She asked the store manager if she could help with marketing, an idea he laughed at. He told her she could immediately start working in sales or step out of the store. So she was hired as a salesperson, her first job in automotive retail. But later, Wells was asked to head up the store's BDC and handle marketing.
Her marketing expertise sharpened and came into play in 2012, when she was asked to pilot a BDC for an Audi dealership in Marietta, Ga. From 2014 to 2018, the dealership's native lead closures grew to nearly 14 percent from 4 percent, and its Internet closing ratio doubled to 12 percent, she said.
Beyond the sales desk, Wells is working to do two things to change the industry: dismantle the notion that all car salespeople are sleazy and empower women to have automotive careers.
Last summer, she and three friends started the Women of Color Automotive Network, a place for women to glean advice, establish camaraderie and share their struggles and successes. It was born out of witnessing how men in the industry so easily recognized one another's potential and supported one another.
"You see his potential," Wells said. "See my potential."
— C.J. Moore