Austin Bitner, 36
General manager, All American Chevrolet of Killeen
Austin Bitner joined the U.S. Army right out of high school and had planned on a career in the military.
But a torn ligament in his shoulder suffered while serving in Iraq in 2008 changed those plans.
As Bitner pondered what to do next, someone suggested a different path.
“My mother of all people kept telling me, ‘Austin, you need to go into sales. You have the personality for it. You need to do something in sales,’ ” Bitner recalled. “I had never really considered sales.”
He decided to give it a shot and started looking.
“In everything I searched, I just kept coming back to car sales,” Bitner said.
He eventually found a job posting at a Ford dealership in Grapevine, Texas, and began his automotive retail career as a salesman.
“It didn’t take me long to really realize that it was a huge passion that I didn’t even know I had,” said Bitner, who soon found his way from sales to finance at the store.
Bitner later moved south to Corpus Christi, where he became sales manager at a Chevrolet store owned by Allen Samuels Auto Group. Bitner went on to be sales director and general sales manager at the store, which AutoNation Inc. bought while he was there.
After about six years there, Bitner wanted to be closer to family. In 2019, he became general manager at All American Chevrolet of Killeen, a Lithia Motors Inc. store in central Texas that’s just minutes away from Fort Hood, a massive U.S. Army base where forces are trained and deployed.
Bitner was drawn to work at a dealership in a military town. But it also was an opportunity to turn around the store, which had gone through seven general managers in about as many years, he said.
“Internally, I kind of wanted that challenge,” Bitner said. “I always had been told early in my career that when you get your first opportunity as a GM, you don’t just get handed a fully functioning store. You generally have to change culture, create that high performance. I felt like this was my opportunity to come in and, for lack of better terms, see if I had what it takes or not.”
As it turned out, he did.
In the four years prior to his arrival, the store averaged $1.5 million in annual net profit, he said. That soared to $6.6 million in 2020, his first full year as general manager.
Bitner, who has worked for two of the largest U.S. auto retailers, envisions his career continuing to grow at high levels.
“I really enjoy working for Lithia,” he said. “I definitely feel like part of the team. My future goals are to be a multistore GM for them and eventually a group vice president.”
— Jack Walsworth