Schwartz, 67, last week said he plans to step back from the auto unit and lead the Cox family's investments as CEO of Cox Family Office, part of the Cox Enterprises parent organization. Schwartz, Cox Automotive's longtime leader, said the decision came from conversations about succession planning and that he believes it's an opportune time for a new leader to take over.
"I told Steve, 'Know where you have to be bold; know where you need to have patience,' " Schwartz said.
Rowley, executive vice president of the Cox Business commercial unit, takes over Schwartz's role as president of Cox Automotive, of Atlanta, starting Monday, Aug. 3. Schwartz will keep his title as CEO of Cox Automotive until the end of the year.
Cox Automotive — which employs about 34,000 people globally across brands that include Autotrader, Manheim, Dealertrack and Xtime — developed a strategy called The Way Forward to realign its business to help dealerships emerge from the COVID-19 crisis. The plan emphasizes digital tools and data insights during an online shift for the industry.
"I'm not saying every other part of the business is not important, but we have to win and be the best at data," Schwartz said. "On the digital side, every part of our business ... is more and more digitized. And those two things are the things [Rowley] has to push and keep his eye on."
The crisis has led to cutbacks and major changes at Cox Automotive, which said last week it eliminated roughly 1,600 jobs in North America, including 1,500 in the U.S., with 1,100 of those at its Manheim wholesale auction unit.
Manheim quickly spun up all-digital auctions in March to slow the spread of the coronavirus and since has resumed some in-lane bidding. In June, Cox Automotive eliminated about 275 positions after furloughing more than 12,500 employees in the spring. The company last week said close to 4,000 furloughed U.S. employees have returned to work, including roughly 3,000 at Manheim.