Aubry Padilla remembers the moment.
She had been selling cars for a couple of years when she had one of her best months ever—selling 30 cars, far and away tops at her dealership. At the monthly sales meeting, Padilla recalls, the owner looked at her and said, “Wow, 30 cars, Aubry. I hope it’s not a fluke.” Then he looked to the salesman who was in second place, who had sold 13 cars, and effusively congratulated and praised him.
Padilla was stunned. “It was in that moment when I realized I was in a gentleman’s club. In that moment, I felt a fire inside me. I never wanted to feel that way again,” she says. “It was a pivotal moment for me.”
Padilla used that fire and motivation to work hard, moving up first to internet sales manager and then to finance manager at the dealership. Then in 2015, she was invited to coffee by Ed Garcia, one of the principals of New Mexico’s Garcia Auto Group. The day after her interview, Garcia sent her a text message offering her a job at the company.
Padilla now serves as executive general manager for two of the Garcia dealerships, its Subaru and Cadillac stores in her hometown of Albuquerque. She was named to the 2019 class of Automotive News’ 40 Under 40 dealership executives.
She says she never aspired to be in the car business. After graduating from the University of Redlands in just three years, she was in need of a summer job before heading to law school. Padilla’s mother pointed out an ad for a local dealership—and drove Aubry to the interview. “I got the job and took to the car business like a fish to water,” Padilla says. “And I’m so glad I did. The idea of going to law school was really living out my grandmother’s dream; for her, for that generation, being a doctor or a lawyer was a sign of success.”
Padilla says for the first few years, her family questioned her career choice. She experienced frustrations, too: After starting as a dealership salesperson, and quickly achieving success, she was promised a promotion to finance manager but often was skipped over. When she finally moved into F&I, she says, “I killed it in the box,” with the backing of a great mentor who helped her learn how to read credit reports and structure deals.
But she credits Ed and his brother Carlos Garcia, two of the brothers who run Garcia Auto Group, for “caring about me, and being as committed to my success as I am,” she says.
Padilla researched Garcia Auto Group before her first meeting with Ed. One of the things she says drew her to the company was the fact that Ed and Carlos’s mother, Sheilah, was the first woman named Time Dealer of the Year, in 1992—and that the company had found such success under her management.
Garcia sent Padilla to NCM Institute for general manager training. “The relationship I share with them and the respect I have for them is profound,” she says. “They compliment good work, and offer constructive criticism. There are no barriers in the workplace. They embrace diversity and promote from within.”
Today, she says her focus is developing other leaders. “If I can develop the next person, the next leader, then I can move on. I try and help people map out their success,” she says. Although she is proud that she has a group of strong women working at her dealerships, she says, “I don’t really see anyone as a minority any more. As a gay Hispanic woman in a male-dominated industry, I know all those things can be used against me. I don’t want to treat anyone as different.”
Her advice to the next generation of women in the industry? “You have to have thick skin. You have to work harder,” she says. But she advises against being a “50-yard dasher”—going too fast and burning out. “Achieving success in this business is something you have to be conditioned for,” she says. “Set realistic goals. Make plans for where you want to be next month and next year.”