AutoSuccess: The Top 10 Companies to Watch in 2019

Team Velocity is revolutionizing the automotive industry with cutting-edge technology and artificial intelligence to help dealers sell and service more cars. Made by dealers, for dealers, Team Velocity’s proprietary technology platform Apollo analyzes years of sales and service data to predict who will buy, what they will buy and when they are ready to service.

Apollo eliminates the risks of traditional marketing techniques by utilizing sophisticated artificial intelligence (AI) that generates dynamic, offer-based campaigns through omni-channels including search, display, social, preroll, email, text, direct mail, personal websites and landing pages. Apollo eliminates the need for multiple platforms by combining everything into one easy-to-use, automated platform that reaches each dealership’s perfect prospects with a consistent message across all marketing channels and is the only platform that runs automatically 24/7, producing hyper-personalized, payment-based ads on real inventory.

Designed to support the automotive retail industry, Apollo and Team Velocity’s suite of capabilities successfully increase revenue and efficiencies for both dealerships and original equipment manufacturers (OEMs).

BOTTOM LINE: Predict, track, sell and service more customers.


Learn more about Team Velocity and the other 9 companies to watch in 2019:


AutoSuccess Story: Hoblit Auto Groups

Hoblit CDJR and Hoblit Ford Auto Group Cultivates Sales & Service

Success Story: Hoblit Auto GroupUsually, when Americans think of California, they think of warm, sandy beaches and the bright lights of Hollywood. Possibly even the beautiful orange groves and wineries in Napa Valley. However, what most individuals fail to realize is that California is also rich and diverse in farmland that consists of rice fields, dairy farms and almond and walnut orchards.

Agricultural communities don’t usually lend themselves to successful automotive dealerships due to the low drive-by traffic, but one fourth-generation family dealership has plowed through the competition of massive auto malls and made a distinct name for itself in the Golden State.

In 1949, Chad Hoblit’s great-grandfather started the family’s Ford dealership in the small Northern California town of Colusa, where the current population has held at less than 6,000 people. In 1999, the generations
of Hoblit’s expanded their company by purchasing the Chrysler, Dodge, Jeep and
Ram (CDJR) dealership in Woodland, CA. Although this location was only 20 miles from downtown Sacramento, it still identifies itself as a rural community.

Today, Chad Hoblit runs the CDJR Woodland dealership, while his brother and semi-retired father run the Colusa location. In 2011, the family hired Gayland Schmitt as a partner and general manager. Since then, the Chrysler store has grown to 104 employees and the Ford store to 45 employees.

A Focus on Farmland

The rural landscape presents challenges and opportunities to both dealerships. While Woodland is a much larger city than Colusa, it is by no means a huge metropolis. The town currently boasts a total population of 60,000, and, according to Chad, they house a few restaurants as well as some mom-and-pop shops.

“The Sacramento River basically separates the whole Sacramento region from the rural, farming region,” Chad said. “Once you go over the river, and past the Sacramento Airport, it turns into nothing but farmland.”

Schmitt concurred. “This isn’t a destination store. No one comes out here to search for cars. They come out here because they are drawn in by our advertising and enticing website features.”

To surmount the locations’ disadvantages, the company has always made catering to the agricultural clientele an integral part of their family business and motto.

“By catering to the local community and farmers in the heart of Northern California farmland, we have really focused on selling and maintaining trucks,” Chad continued. “For me, growing up in such a small town and with all these farmers and friends, I’ve noticed that either you are in ag industry or somehow associated with it. Since they all drive trucks, and need them for work, our focal point has always been on big truck sales.”

By adhering to their target market and focusing their marketing efforts and business philosophies on serving these customers, the results certainly paid off. Some customers come as far as 200 miles away just to purchase a vehicle from their stores.

“When people come out here from Sacramento or the Bay Area, they’re used to the auto malls and brand-new facilities, Chad said. “When they come here, they’re very pleased. They really appreciate the old nostalgic throwback of a small-town and a family-grown atmosphere. It’s like going back to the ’50s or ’60s really.”

While the small-town atmosphere is welcoming, the reason customers know about the stores’ services is due to the company’s detailed attention to their marketing strategy and website presentation.

“We view our website as our virtual showroom,” Chad said. “It’s where people can browse, shop and conduct their whole transaction online without having to step foot in the dealership.”

Marketing Strategy Success

Gayland credits their employees, their marketing technology and the processes that they’ve put in place for the company’s success.

“I’ve been in the car business for over 25 years now and have managed to bring in a lot of good employees and managers,” Gayland said, later adding, “We’re hopefully going to sell 3,000 new cars this year.”

Marketing is a critical component to Hoblit’s success. Since pairing with Team Velocity, their YTD total sales have increased by over 16 percent and monthly service ROs are now up 55 percent.

“I just believed in their marketing,” Gayland said of Team Velocity. “What they’re doing for us is in our perfect market, which is probably like a 30-mile radius, is tremendous. They’ve increased our sales all while driving sales to our service department. They’ve helped us build a solid core for our business. Our nearest competitor used to be number one in the Sacramento region, and we’re beating them now! We’re the number one Ram truck dealer in California, and I’m hoping that this year we’ll become number two in the nation.”

Hoblit CDJR infographic

Team Work

Reaching not only more people, but the right (buying) people is critical — and as part of the marketing with Team Velocity, Hoblit has redeveloped their branding message by highlighting their staff and hassle-free transactions.

“We have a great team, and we approach it a little differently,” Gayland said. “We really pride ourselves on being family owned. We’re not an auto mall. We’re in a small town. We get people from LA, Arizona and all over the place.”

“We have an outstanding and experienced staff here,” Chad said, “We don’t like to waste our customer’s time, and our targeted process is really where we try to keep it simple.”

“We’ve been marketing toward the consumer who wants to go online, find the vehicles they’re looking for, have the vast selection and if we don’t have it, we’ll get it at no extra charge,” Chad continued. “With this process we’re able to get customers pre-approved, work the trade-in numbers and pretty much work the whole deal before they come in. Our goal is and has always been to create a frictionless and seamless sales process. They’re in and out, hopefully within an hour, maybe two. The goal is an hour, but when we’re backed up, it’s hard. We don’t spend
a lot of time negotiating the deal, but unfortunately, even with only four finance managers, it takes a little while to get people out of here sometimes, but that is the idea.”

Chad and Gayland both agree that the company’s emphasis of keeping family-friendly environment really helps fight off the nearby auto mall competition.

“People hate the car-buying process, so we try to transform that into a more pleasurable and enjoyable experience.”

Success Story: Hoblit Auto Groups

Service Solutions

With customers traveling long distances to purchase vehicles, there’s often a struggle to retain them for service. Hoblit relies on the work of Team Velocity to keep the service department business growing.

“We’re retaining a lot of our customers through our service department,” Gayland said. “The ones who are 200 miles away are definitely a little harder to retain, but with Team Velocity, they’ve helped us attract more customers in our appropriate market. Thanks to them our service depart has grown immensely.”

The company has added an offsite facility with 14 lifts in it for truck and large commercial vehicle service. In addition to the agricultural vehicles, Chad said there are many
businesses in Sacramento and the East Bay area that don’t have a convenient place
to have their vehicles serviced.

“We’ve been able to double — and almost triple — our capacity,” Chad said.

“Now, I’m looking for a third facility to do even more service,” Gayland said.

The company also has a great success rate with Team Velocity’s vehicle upgrade program. Their program successfully matches customers with their next top upgrade model and provides them with relevant, payment-based offers.

“I have one full-time gal who actually makes calls every day, calling customers about the upgrade program,” Gayland said. “We do so well with it, I’m actually interviewing a couple more people to help get more deals out of it.” The company’s success has led to the purchase of more lots, including a Ram Truck Center, and they’re looking to expand even further — all while keeping the family, small-town atmosphere in-tact.

They are also looking forward to the year ahead with celebrations for a 70th anniversary for the Ford store and a 20th anniversary for the CJDR store.

Like the surrounding farmland, the Hoblit dealerships are poised for years of continued growth in the California sun.

This article is dedicated to the memory of Wayne Hoblit, Founder, Owner and loving parent.

Hoblit CDJR montage

Hoblit Auto Group uses Team Velocity’s Apollo Technology Platform® to manage integrated marketing campaigns for sales, service and equity mining. Apollo automatically generates and deploys campaigns across mail, email and digital advertising, offering consistent messaging and branding, and provides a web-based dashboard to track results in real-time.

What can Apollo help you with?

AutoSuccess Story: Freedom Auto Group

Improving Lives, Helping Customers

Most customers don’t arrive at a car dealership thinking their life will be improved during the process of buying a vehicle. But at Freedom Auto Group in Pennsylvania, that’s exactly what the owners seek for their customers—life improvement.

AutoSuccess Story: Freedom Auto GroupCo-owners Evelyn Chatel and Eric Savage’s journey to evolve the company into much more than a car dealership started many years ago and continues to unfold in significant ways.

This unique auto group offers no-negotiation needed upfront car pricing and employs “Life Improvement Specialists,” not salespeople. These specialists are not paid commission, but earn salaries based on how well they serve customers, challenging the typical automotive dealership customer experience.


In 1967, 4-year-old Evelyn Chatel, along with her mother and her young brother, escaped communist Cuba on one of the historic Freedom Flights that transported Cubans to Miami.

When Evelyn was 18, a friend offered her a job as a greeter in the service lane of his Miami dealership. Over the years, she advanced in the dealership, becoming service advisor, warranty administrator, service manager, and service director. She credits her ascension to curiosity and assertiveness. “I wasn’t afraid to ask questions or speak up if I knew that it was going to be helpful for the betterment of the group.”

After 17 years with the first company and shortly after it was sold to Group One, she joined AutoNation. She spent seven years at AutoNation, at one point winning an all-expenses-paid trip where she met and struck up a friendship with Eric Savage, whose father owned a few dealerships. One year later, Savage bought the stores from his father and asked Evelyn to be his partner. “And that’s how we ended up in Pennsylvania,” she explained.

“The consumer is smarter than ever, they have all that information at their disposal” Evelyn Chatel —


“Eric and I are both very passionate about not doing the same things that everybody else does,” Evelyn said. “We knew that dealerships didn’t have to be operated the way they’ve always been run. We didn’t know what that was; we just knew it needed to be different.”

In seeking to establish a different approach, they began by putting the employee first. They believed if they took care of their people, those employees would, in return, take care of the dealership and its customers.

Along the way, they adopted a program called THE ACT FORMULA® — accountability, communication and trust. THE ACT FORMULA is an active learning and development experience designed to build a positive and productive culture, providing the foundation needed for people to work at higher levels of performance and stimulating a comprehensive adoption of training programs.

Through teamwork initiatives developed in accordance to the formula, the Freedom Auto Group also established five elements essential to transforming the dealership into a life improvement business.

“We came up with our REACH statement,” which stands for Results, Enthusiasm, Accountability, Connection, and Honesty — fundamental concepts for their program.

Evelyn Chatel and Freedom Auto Group find success with one-price concept

But for Evelyn, there was still something missing. She then discovered the book The Go-Giver by Bob Burg and John David Mann, which provided the final piece of the “Life Improvement Company” puzzle. The book essentially suggests “if you give unconditionally without expectation of getting, you will get well beyond any expectation that you gave. And that is who we are,” Evelyn said.

This gave birth to their Life Improvement Business practice and promise.

“We didn’t want to just sell and service cars. We wanted to improve lives,” Evelyn said. “But I know that sounds crazy in this business.”

She continued, “We take care of our customers because we want to take care of our customers, not because we need to just sell them a car. We want to make the experience better than anything they’ve ever encountered. We take care of our people because we want to take care of our people, not because we expect them to work longer and harder in return.”

Being in the life improvement business also means Freedom Auto Group is committed to the community. Freedom invests in projects that advance the lives of people in their Pennsylvania communities. Every year, Freedom dealerships contribute more than $200,000 and Freedom employees provide more than 1,000 volunteer hours to community causes.

Today, REACH symbolizes Freedom’s Core Values, guiding behavior and decision making throughout the dealership.


Today’s customers present new challenges for dealers — they come to the store having researched the vehicle they’re interested in, from specific model features and specs to pricing and warranty life.

“The consumer is smarter than ever,” Evelyn said. “They have all that information at their disposal.”

The partners focused on the concept of “one price” — the price on the car is the price customers pay, no haggling, no negotiating.

This concept would become instrumental in creating an environment of life improvement for customers. But it was not without its challenges. Changing to a one-price store wasn’t going to happen overnight, and there would be a few naysayers along the way.

“The number one biggest challenge is people,” Evelyn said. “It’s a cultural change for most, and we lost a few people because they said they believed in the negotiating process.” While she was hurt by their departure, Evelyn knew that at the end of the day, they might have left anyway because “our culture is stronger than any payment plan.”

The company now employs more millennials, more women, and more people who are driven by factors other than money.

With consumers knowing the price of the car from the get-go, Freedom Auto Group’s next challenge would be standing out from the crowd. With their core values in mind, they knew the customer experience would have to be the difference maker.

“Now, the salespeople are here to serve you,” Evelyn explained. “And they don’t care what car you pick, because it doesn’t matter to them. There’s no commission base. They are now doing the right thing for the right reason, not because they are going to get a special spiff on that car because it’s been aging on my lot. It’s simply our mission to help customers buy a car and not sell them a car.”

“Life improvement to us is not only just for our people and giving them a place where they work but giving customers a place where they feel proud to do business.”


Once the team was on board with the company’s new philosophy, the next step was to get the word out to the market.

“That’s when Team Velocity came in,” Evelyn said. Embracing Freedom Auto Group’s core values, Team Velocity developed a marketing strategy that made it easy for customers to understand the one-price approach and life improvement philosophies of the dealership. Team Velocity’s campaign showcased Freedom Auto Group’s value proposition and its “Freedom 5” suite of benefits.

Freedom Auto Group uses Team Velocity’s Apollo Technology Platform® to manage integrated marketing campaigns for sales, service and equity mining. Apollo automatically generates and deploys campaigns across mail, email and digital advertising, offering consistent messaging and branding, and provides a web-based dashboard to track results in real-time.

Freedom Toyota montage

Freedom Auto Group uses Team Velocity’s Apollo Technology Platform® to manage integrated marketing campaigns for sales, service and equity mining. Apollo automatically generates and deploys campaigns across mail, email and digital advertising, offering consistent messaging and branding, and provides a web-based dashboard to track results in real-time.

The Freedom 5 benefits are designed to improve the lives of customers by offering a 100 percent money-back guarantee, hassle-free upfront pricing, no salespeople and no commissions, bucks for basics, and Freedom Direct in which Freedom comes to the customer for sales and service needs. Freedom also offers free car washes with every service, no-charge state inspections, and complimentary loaner cars.

This 360-marketing strategy was executed for delivery across traditional mass market mediums, such as radio and print, as well as targeted in-market mediums, such as direct mail, email, paid search, display, social media, and in-store point of sale.

While it’s been less than six months since the rollout, Evelyn said they have realized exceptional results with the help of Team Velocity’s innovative strategies.

“I’m hearing from the showroom floor and getting letters and cards from customers saying ‘Wow! This was an easy way to buy a car… Wow! We didn’t have to go back and forth… Wow! They really listened to me; you guys made it my process, not your process.'”

“That’s what life improvement is about,” Evelyn explained. “You give unconditionally without expectation of getting, and you get back beyond anything that you gave. That’s what we do.”

What can Apollo help you with?

AutoSuccess Story: The Future of Fixed Ops

Historic Manly Honda Has Fresh Ideas for Long-Term Growth

Manly Honda - AutoSuccess Cover StoryWhen a company has a long, storied history and has experienced high levels of success, the temptation is to go conservative, rely on what’s worked in the past and double down on tradition. Those are the companies that play defense and try to hold on to past glories. Those are the companies that cease innovating and stop growing.

Manly Honda is not one of those companies.

Despite a declining market, Manly Honda has steadily increased their annual Customer Pay Repair Orders by 13 percent over the last year, giving a large boost to the Fixed Operations bottom line. This proves that a clear, well-defined strategy, along with the right people, processes and tools to increase service revenue, is a critical component to today’s automotive growth and success.


The forecast is predicting inclement conditions for retailers. Reports indicate consumers will spend $2 billion less on new cars, and the new vehicle retail pace is expected to reach the lowest mark since 2012, dipping 8.9 percent from the previous year.

With the deflated SAAR (seasonally adjusted annualized rate), decision makers are looking for new ways to maximize Fixed Operations to boost revenue.

One of the most significant challenges dealers face is with retaining the customer after the OEM warranty expires. Statistics show that customer loyalty decreases alongside a substantial reduction in communication with the customer after the initial few years. As contact with the customer begins to decrease with the expiration of the factory warranty, there exists a pivotal juncture where the cost of repairs to the vehicle become significantly higher. A loss of communication with the customer equals a loss of major Service revenue.

Manly Honda



Fortunately, the Manly family has a long history of ingenuity, beginning with Manly Honda founders, Bill and Lori. While on a business trip to Japan, Bill convinced Mr. Honda to ship a Honda 600s to San Francisco. After hitchhiking to the port upon its arrival, Bill drove the car back to the dealership and sold the first Honda ever in the continental United States! Being the pioneers that they were, Manly Honda quickly became one of the largest and best-reviewed dealerships in the state.

Manly Honda maintains their growth and positive public image by not forgetting why they were able to grow in the first place. A focus on customer satisfaction as well as innovation runs through the veins at Manly Honda as the legacy continues with the next-generation owner, Brian Manly. At his right hand is General Manager Jeff Dantzler, who affirms, “The Manly family has always regarded themselves as a customer service business that just happens to sell and maintain vehicles. From the original founders to today, our customers are members of the Manly family, and it shows in everything we do.”

The dealership is stepping confidently into the future because the team isn’t afraid of what’s to come. Instead, they actively seek out new technology and ideas to better serve their customer base. Nowhere is this as apparent as in the Manly Service Department. While sales may make the potential client a customer, it’s service that keeps that customer coming back.

“There are so many Service Departments who just turn the lights on, sit back, and expect people to come in,” adds Luke Ammann, service manager at Manly Honda. “Those are the people who are falling far behind on technology and innovation. The way I look at it is, I need to focus on outperforming the underperformers.”


With the recent report of decreasing retail sales and projections that consumers will spend less on new car purchases this year, Manly execs are focusing heavily on Fixed Operations. To support this effort, they needed an intuitive, aggressive and comprehensive approach to continue to reap success and growth in a stagnant industry.

To stay on top, Manly Honda decided to partner with industry leader Team Velocity, known for their cutting-edge technology, Apollo, and their ability to target consumers with “hyper-personalized” offers throughout all marketing mediums for both sales and service customers.

“Communication has been a key feature of our strategy,” Ammann said, “whether it’s through mail, digital, texting, email or other methods. We’re trying to get ahead of our competition, so that they say, ‘Wow, they’re doing it. They’re still doing it. They made it work. I wonder what they’re doing?’ We want to have them outside looking in trying to figure out what we’re doing that they can’t do.”

Like most dealers, one of the challenges Manly Honda faced was knowing when and how to communicate with service customers who haven’t visited the dealership recently. $340 billion is spent on car repairs in the U.S. each year, yet dealers only capture 20 percent of their service market potential. On top of that, most dealers are seeing 50 percent of their customers service their vehicles away from the dealership…that’s a big missed opportunity. To overcome this challenge, Manly Honda implemented a new service marketing program run through Team Velocity’s technology platform, Apollo, called DrivingLoyalty.

DrivingLoyalty helps dealers build customer loyalty and boost retention from day one. Most dealers have a service marketing strategy that is loosely based on the last time a customer serviced at the dealership and their estimated mileage. This means, by the time a dealer deems a customer “lost” it could be 12 months or more. With DrivingLoyalty, Manly Honda knows when their customers service elsewhere, what services were completed, and more, enabling them to make better and smarter decisions about how and when to engage customers.

DrivingLoyalty allows Apollo to send out hyper-personalized and relevant messaging to its customers based on the exact vehicle services they need, at the exact time they need them. Apollo also creates personalized websites for every customer, where they can claim service offers and schedule service appointments at their dealership.

By understanding the unique needs of every customer, Manly Honda is able to present more directed, attractive marketing to them. The marketing budget is also made more efficient through ownership verification — offers are not wasted on customers who no longer own that specific vehicle. By using constantly updated consumer data, waste is drastically reduced or eliminated. This level of sophistication allows Manly Honda to deliver real-time relevant messages to the right customer at the right time.

Since implementing DrivingLoyalty, Manly Honda has generated outstanding results:

  • Customer Pay Repair Orders are up 13% over last year
  • Fixed Operations grossed an additional $127,000 last month on 644 customers that were servicing away from the dealership
  • Averaged 84 new active customers per month
  • Increased lost customer conversions by 25%
  • Averaged 56% new Conquest VINs per month to their active database

This relationship between the service department and its customers has also helped Manly Honda take advantage of opportunities to sell vehicles out of the service lane. Since 2011, the dealership has used Team Velocity’s Apollo platform to target in-market customers before they begin the shopping process. Apollo uses Upgrade Matrix, a piece of technology that enables Manly Honda to target customers in equity positions that would allow them to leave with newer vehicles for the same or even lower monthly payments. In fact, Manly Honda regularly sells 40 to 55 cars a month out of the service lane. In May, 60 percent of the vehicles Manly Honda sold were generated from Apollo’s Opportunity Dashboard and sales from the service drive. Increasing vehicles in operation out of the service lane is just one great way Manly has found to maintain and grow its customer base.

Manly Honda montage


“What we try to do is ask the right questions as opposed to having the right answers because we feel the right question will lead us to those answers,” Dantzler said. “Team Velocity asks the right questions when they develop new applications for Apollo, like DrivingLoyalty. They think, ‘What would consumers want? Would customers benefit from pickup and delivery? What do our customers need? How can we engage customers sooner? How can we improve the customer experience?’ These are great questions that we ask as opposed to thinking that we have all the answers. I really think it starts with the right questions.”

Manly soon learned that one major concern their customers have is transportation while their vehicle is being serviced. To solve this problem, the dealership recently eliminated its shuttle service and found another, more efficient method to keep people moving while their car is in the shop. “We’ve switched to Uber Business for one-on-one pickup for customers,” Ammann said. “We call it the Manly Valet Service.”

The dealership also offers loaner vehicles when that option makes more sense for the customer’s specific situation. “Honda has a trademark — ‘Providing service at the speed of life.’ When I first heard it, I took it as truth,” Ammann said. “We provide service at the speed of life and if you do that, you can’t stop what a mom of three is doing to have her car serviced. We’ll come to you and say, ‘Here’s a five-passenger vehicle. You continue on. Transfer your car seats over and go to the game, go shopping or do whatever it is you need to do. When you’re ready to be home or come back, your car will be ready for you.’”


Both Ammann and Dantzler realize that, no matter how intelligent the marketing is or what programs the dealership offers, if their team isn’t on board, all the other work will be for nothing.

“We have a very tight team,” Ammann said. “We are extremely tight, not only as coworkers but as friends outside of the dealership. People here help people move, buy their first home… some of our people had a fire issue during the recent firestorm who needed a helping hand. It all builds employee satisfaction. But I think the direct relationship from (Manly President) Brian Manly to his managers trickles down to all of our employees, and this dealership still has that family-owned feeling, and not the corporate-owned dealerships like a lot of businesses do now.”

“It’s all about purpose,” Dantzler said. “That’s why we’re here, both for the people who work here and for the people in our community. When you attach purpose to what you do and how you’re doing it, when you see how your success can lead to the success of others, it begins to be a lot easier and a lot more exciting to wake up in the morning. You can’t wait to get to work because you’ve got a purpose to it.”

“Our efforts are all aimed at making service easy for our customer,” Ammann said. “We call it the ‘Manly Advantage.’ Having the pickup and delivery, having loaner cars, having choices that are easy… we provide our customers with what is recommended and what is needed, and there’s no pressure to have them make a decision. When they’re ready, we’re ready.”

That feeling has paid off with great reviews and positive word of mouth from the dealership’s customers. “We’re one of the most reviewed dealers in California,” Dantzler said. “And any way you look at it, we’re in the top three. We’re definitely on the podium in the entire state of California when it comes to online reviews. We think it’s really important to know what our customers know. We’ve said it a lot, but it’s not really about what we say; it’s about what the customers say, especially today.”

While proud of its past, Manly Honda isn’t afraid of the future. “Our people understand the vision,” Ammann said. “If we fail, we fail, but we won’t know that unless we try.”

What can Apollo help you with?

AutoSuccess Story: Vandergriff Hyundai

Staying Focused and Reinventing

Vandergriff Hyundai Combines New Technology and Tested Fundamentals to Stay on Top of the Market

Vandergriff Success StoryWhen your dealership is facing stiff competition, the difference between success and failure comes down to two elements: you’ve got to stand out from the competition to get the consumer’s attention, and then you must treat them right, so those customers not only buy from you, but return to your dealership in the future.

For Ryan Rios, general sales manager of Vandergriff Hyundai, those two tasks are foremost in his mind and in the minds of his team. The dealership, located in Arlington, Texas, faces competition from all sides and from all makes.

“We have, just on this access road alone, a Mitsubishi dealership and a Ford dealership, and then one more exit down, another Ford dealership along with a Jeep/Dodge/Ram dealership and a Kia dealership.” Vandergriff Hyundai’s sister Acura, Honda and Toyota dealerships are also near Rios’ store. “So, there are quite a few new car franchises in this area,” Rios said. “The Dallas/Fort Worth market is very competitive. We have at least 18 Hyundai stores in our area.”

Even though the Arlington area is growing, Rios knew that, with this level of competition, his store needed to keep on top of both its marketing efforts and customer service dynamics. Those efforts, both what goes on inside the store and the messages it sends out to customers, had to be both effective and efficient.

Focusing on those efforts is paying off.

“In the last three years, we’ve been No. 2 in the market,” Rios said, “but here, as of April, we were No. 1 in the Dallas/Fort Worth market, and we’re projected to be No. 1 again this month.”

So, what is Vandergriff Hyundai’s blueprint for success?



Upon taking his position in 2015, Rios said that his first goals were to make the most of the things that matter, and that were under his team’s control. “One of our main strengths is that we just outwork everybody,” he said. “Our store, on average, will make between 9,000 and 11,000 calls per month.”

That effort, he said, gets his store noticed by those in the market for a vehicle. When his store makes the calls that the others don’t, it’s an advantage that’s difficult to overcome.

“We also make sure that we follow up with our customers,” Rios said, “because they took the time to either go online and show an interest in a Hyundai or in one of our preowned vehicles. We’re going to make sure that we follow up with them because we want that edge.”

This effort to contact customers — and then take care of them once they come in — is critical in Rios’ strategy to take his store to another level. “Pricing is so competitive out there, you’ve got to distinguish yourself with service and so, we take good care of our customers and we do business the fair and correct way. We’re very transparent in our processes.”


In order to get customers into the store, it’s necessary to let them know that Vandergriff Hyundai is ready to meet their needs, and also to educate them not only about what the dealership can do for them but answer questions they have — or might not even be aware they have at that moment. Rios knew that having a strong, consistent marketing message was necessary to stand out from the crowd; he also knew he needed assistance in putting that message into motion.

“When I came here, I tried to dabble into advertising,” he said, “and do a variety of different things. We tried some YouTube, some Facebook, some radio…we did television quite a bit. But we really didn’t have a consistent message through all platforms, and I really didn’t have a targeting strategy. I was spending money in advertising, but I didn’t really have an overall plan for what I was trying to do.”

After recognizing the need for outside expertise, Rios and his team began the search for a marketing partner, and ultimately chose Team Velocity for their messaging needs.

“Team Velocity came in and said, ‘Hey, let’s develop a game plan to connect you with your customers.’ Right off the bat, we were 100 percent committed. I was so excited to have not only a game plan but an agency that could then help execute it.”

One of the first things that plan entailed was to target specific nearby ZIP codes that the team believed would be most receptive to what Vandergriff Hyundai provided. “We found areas with high registrations for Hyundai and we started mailing to them,” Rios said. “Then, it all fell into place. Once we started sending direct mail, we began to add in digital advertising as well.”

Fast forward to today, and Vandergriff Hyundai regularly runs campaigns made up of direct mail, digital marketing, social media contact and data mining — and the results have been encouraging, to say the least. “We’re gaining,” Rios said. “We’ve gained market share three out of the last four months. We were in first place last month, and we were there pretty comfortably. That’s the first time that had happened, and we’re sitting pretty good again this month.”

“Most importantly,” he said, “I really do feel like our marketing now has a strategy, and we are successfully executing on that strategy.”


A major component of a properly executed marketing strategy is to ensure your message is getting to the audience most interested in receiving it. It’s a simple notion, but one that can be difficult to put into practice.

“Before, we had kind of a ‘spray and pray’ strategy,” Rios said. “Now, it’s very direct. I don’t know that marketing companies are any more innovative today than they were 10 years ago, but the biggest difference right now is data. Facebook is a great example.

SEM is SEM, and you’re going to rely on keywords. There’s some art to it, but if you can track these customers on a platform like Facebook and give them specific, targeted ads for what they are in the market for, and you have the data to back that up, I think your marketing dollars are better spent there than they are anywhere else.”

Vandergriff Hyundai mockup

Vandergriff Hyundai uses Team Velocity’s Apollo Technology Planform® to manage integrated marketing campaigns for sales, service and equity mining. Apollo automatically generates and deploys campaigns across mail, email and digital advertising, offering consistent messaging and branding, and provides a web-based dashboard to track results in real-time.


By using other data mining techniques, Vandergriff Hyundai has found opportunities that would have been overlooked before. “We have a couple of experienced team members whose job it is to make calls based on the data mining received from Team Velocity,” Rios said, “and both guys do very well at it. It’s important because they’ve got to understand everything,” he said. “They’ve got to understand not only the structure of the deal but what puts customers in the market to buy a car in the first place.”

The combination of expertise and warm leads has provided great value for both our internal sales team and the store, Rios said. “A lot of times, people will pre-judge a customer and believe that they won’t be interested in a deal,” he said. “One of my guys who makes calls, Hector Garnica, used to be a sales manager for me, so he works his own deals. Our very first deal from the new data mining process was a customer who bought a Tucson from us not six months earlier. Most people wouldn’t even think to call that customer. Hector saw her, though, and reached out because she had been researching a specific stock number, and we sold her that vehicle. On top of that, we also got a trade out of the deal which is extremely important to us. At that point, we became true believers.”


Another area that Vandergriff Hyundai has been able to take better advantage of after bringing Team Velocity on board is selling customers out the service lane by presenting them with options to upgrade their vehicle.

“We have a service BDC,” Rios said, “and two team members who rely on Team Velocity’s Apollo platform to find opportunities in our service area. They can find customers who might be interested in taking a test drive while they wait for their vehicles to be serviced. We spiff those team members both for test drives and for purchases made through this program. We really work our upgrade program and have been tremendously happy with the results.”

Having a holistic approach to provide customers with whatever they need — both in sales and service — has helped the dealership’s service department, as well. “Our service growth, specifically our CPRO growth, has been great,” Rios said. “As of right now, I think we’re at a 10 percent year-over-year increase. Our fixed absorption at Hyundai is in the 80s; the average Hyundai dealership is in the low 70s, maybe even the high 60s.”


Because new car sales across the nation are cooling, Vandergriff Hyundai is increasing its emphasis on growing its pre-owned vehicle sales operations. While there is more risk, the dealership is also seeing encouraging results and rewards. “Because when a majority of the used cars you’re selling are purchased units, there’s a lot of risk involved, so we make sure that we try to turn our inventory as fast as possible,” Rios said. “In March, we sold 200 used cars to 114 new. In April, we sold 144 used cars and did 106 new. It’s difficult to grow our used car department where we want it, but we’ve had a lot of success with it. A lot of success. In fact, year-to-date we are up 52 percent in used car sales.”

In addition to hiring a buyer who goes out and makes informed decisions on which pre-owned vehicles would be right for Vandergriff Hyundai’s inventory, the dealership also treats people who might be in the market for a used vehicle the same as those who might buy new.

“We know we have a lot of people on our website who are in the market for pre-owned vehicles,” Rios said, “so we put their email into our system and target them the same way we target new car customers. We also make sure we have the inventory that will move, that our customers are looking for. We have about 130 used vehicles on our lot right now, ranging from $6,800 to $50,000 or $60,000. We make sure that, if you’ve got a need or are looking for something particular, there’s a high probability that we’ve got it.”


Vandergriff Hyundai’s results from their increased marketing and data mining efforts have been encouraging, but Rios knows that focusing on the fundamentals is not something his team can ever back away from.

“There’s always a new dealer out there who’s looking to be an up and comer,” Rios said, “and you’ve got to either hold them off or reinvent yourself to stay relevant in the market.” By staying up on current trends and technology while now forgetting how important it is to treat customers right, Vandergriff Hyundai is doing what it takes to stay on top.

What can Apollo help you with?

AutoSuccess Story: Lou Bachrodt Mazda

Turning in the Right Direction

Les Nunez and Lou Bachrodt Mazda plot a course for future success and growth.

Sometimes, to make a difference and turn things around, a leader must throw out the old playbook and write a new one.

That is exactly what General Sales Manager Les Nunez did two years ago when he arrived at Lou Bachrodt Mazda, located in Coconut Creek, Florida. Fast forward to today, and those changes are showing up on the bottom line.

“Before I came in, they kind of ran it like an old-school store,” Nunez said. “The customer came in, they started negotiating and you just grinded and grinded until you made the transaction. Don’t get me wrong; there’s nothing wrong with that approach. It’s just not the proper approach for the clientele we have here.”

Nunez, who has worked for 21 years at various dealerships in manager and general sales manager positions, specializes in taking struggling dealerships and turning them around. “I bring it back to specs and make it profitable again,” he said. “That’s kind of my niche.”

Part of Nunez’s new playbook was making the customer’s visit more of a boutique experience at the dealership. “The complete culture of the store has changed,” Nunez said. “We’ve made it a more family-oriented business. Customers come in and our friendly, helpful staff shows them the vehicle. Once they like the vehicle, we go over numbers. We’re pretty much a one-price store. We don’t negotiate too much. We advertise the lowest price possible and we give the lowest lease possible up front so the customer doesn’t feel pressured once they get here. When they come in, they pretty much know what they’re paying for the vehicle — we just have to tell them the reason to do business with us.”

Nunez said that he believes the auto industry can learn a lot from other industries. “When you go into the Apple store to buy an iPhone, do you negotiate the price on it? You pretty much know what the price is. You just must meet a salesperson or staff member who will show you the features and benefits on the phone and explain to you why you should pay the $599, $699 or $1099 for the phone. They made the experience tailored to the way you wanted it because your price expectation was already there. I’ve taken that philosophy into the car business and it works well, especially for a Mazda customer, because they’re kind of a niche buyer.”


Part of the change in philosophy Nunez initiated was to change the pay plan on the sales floor. “The car industry, for many years, was on a strictly commission basis,” he said, “so for the longest time, the whole idea was to try to get as much out of the customer — to put as much money in your pocket as possible. I changed it up. My team, regardless of what the transaction pays the store, gets a flat pay. This means that, no matter what happens, they just have to treat my customers right, show them all the features and benefits of the car, and they’re still going to get their money. This isn’t an industry first — I brought it from my other store — but it was something new to this place.

Along with making the shopping experience better, this change was well-received by the staff as well. Nunez has retained 95 percent of his team in the two years after taking over at the store.

“Once you get the buy-in of the staff, they pretty much just follow the beat,” Nunez said. “They know to treat the customer right, do the right steps and show them all the right vehicles, because they know they’re going to get a paycheck no matter what. So, they just must do it. They present everything properly. It’s pretty easy. Believe me, the problem with this business is that we just overthink everything. It’s basic — treat the customer right and put them in the right car. They know the price. They know the payment. Move forward. That’s all you need to do.”

The numbers coming in show that Nunez’s approach is working. “We’ve taken this store from selling 60 units a month, new and pre-owned, to more than 150,” he said. “Our Mazda store closes at an average of 62 percent with walk-in traffic, so most of the people who make it in the door leave with a car.”


While the closing rate for incoming customers is impressive — and proves the new sales approach works — it’s crucial that those new customers keep showing up. And, while the dealership’s location has advantages, there are also challenges.

“We serve Coconut Creek, Parkland, West Boca and Coral Springs, and it’s an extremely affluent area,” Nunez said. “The median income in areas like Boca & Parkland alone is about $180,000 for a family, and the houses are about $800,000. Also, I really don’t have direct competition next door; there are only two other Mazda stores within 20 miles of us.” In most industries, a lack of competition in an area is a good way to corner the market and maximize the bottom line. In auto sales, however, being the only game in town can have a downside. “It is and it isn’t (an advantage), and here’s why,” Nunez said. “It would be a little better if we had more stores because we’d have better access to inventory.”

To make the most of every opportunity, marketing is a key element of Lou Bachrodt Mazda’s plan. Recently, the manufacturer revamped its marketing co-op package, and the dealership had to adjust its strategies and make the most of its budget. “The game changed back in September,” said David Lowitz, Marketing Director of ValuInsight, the dealership’s in-house agency, “and we’ve had to change with it.” For the past six months, with the exception of a unique direct mail campaign, almost all marketing the dealership has done has been digital. “No radio, a bit of cable television and nothing else,” he said.

To assist them and to bolster those marketing efforts, the dealership brought in Team Velocity last year to assist with various types of digital marketing. “Team Velocity has been a huge part of our growth.” Lowitz said. “Their platform has allowed us to completely focus on reaching our best targets in the right geographic areas at the right time, then ‘capture’ those people and help us get more deals done. Team Velocity has become the focal point of our marketing.”

“What we’ve done with Dave’s help and with Team Velocity is expand our customer conquest map,” Nunez said. “We attract the customer with a good hook through a combination of direct mail, email and retargeting. Then we bring them into the store, show them the way we do business and it works.”

“I think we really hit our stride with Team Velocity in the beginning of the year, and I’ll give you some examples,” Lowitz said. “Q1 ’18 vs Q1 ’17 we’re up nearly 80 units. This March we did 100 new versus March of ’17 when we did 62.”

Sales Up 25% Q1 '18 vs. Q1 '17 and 60% March '18 vs. March '17

To be truly effective, Nunez said, marketing and the sales approach need to complement each other. “Here’s the thing; unless the customers know where you’re at, unless they know what you’re willing to do, they won’t come in the store,” he said. “The
days of people just going from store to store ended years ago. SEM, targeting, area targeting, customer targeting… it’s the business. That’s what it comes down to. That’s where we are today.”

“I think a big part of the store’s success has really been Les’s philosophy first and then the advertising second, specifically the marketing we’re doing with Team Velocity,” Lowitz said. “Without his philosophy, I don’t think it would’ve worked as well as it has.”


In addition to marketing, service is the other way dealerships can keep customers coming in and building all-important relationships. As with the other elements of his strategy, Nunez and his team have taken an aggressive approach to making sure the customer has a great experience.

“Early in the year, we introduced a maintenance plan at a very discounted rate,” Nunez said, “and I’m talking an extremely discounted rate — almost as a gift to our customers so that they come back to us and service with us. Yes, the initial hit of selling the package costs the store a little bit of money, but if you look at it in the long run, we retain those customers.”

In addition to this service, Lou Bachrodt Mazda is also making efforts on the marketing side to bring existing customers back and bring new ones in. “We now are targeting customers in different ways using Team Velocity in intervals of 60 days, 90 days, 9 months and 12 months. We also signed up for a package where we try to target customers in our area, within a given radius of our location. We target various consumer types to bring them to the store for service. For instance, customers who have not been to our dealership for a long time will get a different offer and different coupons than someone who has been here recently.”

 Lou Bachrodt Mazda uses Team Velocity Marketing’s Apollo Technology Planform® to manage integrated marketing campaigns for sales, service and equity mining. Apollo automatically generates and deploys campaigns across mail, email and digital advertising, offering consistent messaging a nd branding, and provides a web-based dashboard to track results in real-time.

Lou Bachrodt Mazda uses Team Velocity Marketing’s Apollo Technology Planform® to manage integrated marketing campaigns for sales, service and equity mining. Apollo automatically generates and deploys campaigns across mail, email and digital advertising, offering consistent messaging and branding, and provides a web-based dashboard to track results in real-time.


While Lou Bachrodt Mazda is enjoying a surge in sales, Nunez knows that to maintain growth and keep the numbers moving in the right direction, he and his team must keep an eye on their efforts, plan for the future and make adjustments when necessary.

“If you want to be successful, you have to know what you’re fighting against and how you’re going get there,” he said. “You can’t just go blind. It’s fun though. I’ll be honest with you; when the car business stops being fun, it’ll be a different day for me. As long as it continues to be fun, though, we’ll keep doing it. There’s no a doubt about it.”

What can Apollo help you with?

How one car dealer shows what’s best for the customer is best for business

“The whole notion of having to come to a dealership for service is outdated,” says Brian Benstock, general manager and VP at Paragon Honda, the largest certified pre-owned Honda dealership in the world. “If a customer doesn’t want to set foot in the dealership, they shouldn’t have to.”

That’s a pretty bold statement for an auto dealer, but for any marketer in any industry it reflects a new reality when it comes to meeting customer expectations.

As they have in other sectors, digital and mobile technologies have totally transformed the relationship between drivers and dealerships. People can do practically everything online that they’d do at a dealership—including comparing models and scheduling service—which has led them to expect a fast, friction-free experience both before and after the sale. “Time is the new currency,” says Benstock. “You’ve got to move at the speed of the customer. … If we don’t disrupt ourselves, the customer will do it for us.”

To meet customer expectations, Paragon Honda set out to transform its customer assistance by removing friction from one of the biggest customer pain points: vehicle maintenance and service.

“Our customers want to live their lives. They don’t have the time to drive out to the dealership, drop off their car, and wait for it to be serviced. Technology has changed their expectations, and we knew we needed to change our approach to service and marketing in order to meet those,” says Benstock.

Paragon Honda, in partnership with Team Velocity, took a three-step approach to transform the way it assists customers. The broader concepts behind this approach can be applied to almost any marketer in any industry. It comes down to considering the customers’ needs every step of the way.

1. Remove the friction

Regular or reactive car maintenance is an inconvenience that’s amplified when it requires visiting a dealership during working hours. Knowing that today’s consumers expect to get things done immediately, Paragon Honda developed an app that lets customers request to have their vehicle picked up, serviced, and returned to their home within 24 hours—no dealership visit required. That’s especially convenient in Queens, N.Y., where Paragon is based. Paragon’s seen that customers who use the Paragon Direct app drive twice as many repair orders compared to customers who don’t use it.

2. Test new technology

To make it even simpler for its customers to schedule service and maintenance, Paragon became the first dealer to build an app for the Google Assistant. Drivers will soon be able to schedule service—such as routine maintenance, oil changes, and tire rotations—quickly and easily using just their voices.

3. Optimize marketing and measurement

Research shows that when drivers need information quickly, the first place they turn is search.1 To drive awareness of its 24-hour service online, Paragon ramped up its investment in search to be there in moments when people searched “honda oil change” and “honda maintenance” in the New York market. As a result, this strategy helped Paragon grow its service repair orders by 5X in the last 12 months, according to the dealership.

At the same time, when it comes to buying a car, search is the most commonly used among all sources, including word of mouth, television ads, and even dealer visits.2 For that reason, Paragon also used search ads to drive new and used vehicle sales, but needed a way to prove its impact. Instead of focusing solely on driving conversions through lead forms, Paragon used Google store visits to measure how search ads helped generate visits to its dealership. This helped the dealer better understand which keywords and campaigns were driving people to its dealership, and, according to Paragon, revealed that search was nearly 5X more cost-effective per vehicle sold compared to other media.

By sitting in the driver’s seat, Paragon was able to transform the way it assists its customers. “I think any time you do what’s best for the customer, that ends up being what’s best for the business,” Benstock concluded.


Original Article


AutoSuccess Story: Morehead Honda

Equitable Deals from Equity Data

Morehead Honda Finds New Ways to Drive Sales

Morehead Honda Success StoryFounded one year after World War II, Morehead Honda is steeped in tradition. The family-owned dealership, located in Newburgh, New York, has served generations of drivers in the Newburgh, Poughkeepsie and Monroe area. Through the years, the dealership has seen many changes in the auto sales industry — both in automotive technology and in the way consumers shop for vehicles.

To stay relevant and meet the needs, desires and demands of the modern automotive customer, Morehead has had to develop new ways to provide sales and service opportunities to its customers, including creating a position that would have been unheard of just a few years ago: an equity consultant.

Nikkole Daya started with the company in 2013 in the BDC department. As her skills grew and the dealership started seeing the potential of selling cars from the service lane, her transition to the newly formed equity consultant position was a natural step.

“When I was hired at Morehead Honda, I had no experience in the car business,” Daya said. “I started as a BDC agent and thought it was going to be a simple telemarketing job. But then I ended up doing a lot of business development and lead generation.” When the BDC department was reorganized, the dealership’s leaders chose Daya to head a new initiative — one they hoped would help the dealership grow in the future. “They made this position for me, which involved data mining and using equity tools. At first, though, no one had any idea how to use the tools. It was just me attending Webinars and trying to see what would work.” From these unsteady beginnings, however, Daya started to build a presence.

“We turned out to have great success with it,” she said. “We’ve made a lot of money.”


“As an equity consultant, what I do is data mining,” Daya said. “I reach out to customers. Some of which are people in our service drive and appear to be in good equity position to roll over into a newer car. In other cases, I’ll do a lot of cold calling just to see if they’d be open to an appraisal. My approach is that we can either try to buy their vehicle outright from them if it fills our inventory need or roll their existing equity over into something newer or different for them.”

This approach is new for a lot of Morehead’s customers, and Daya has found a lot of success by just informing potential sales customers of their options. “A lot of times, when people are not really educated about the car business, they find out they can get a really good deal,” she said.

While selling to consumers who aren’t even in the market for a new vehicle is great for the dealership’s profitability, Daya maintains her focus on making sure the customer is getting the best deal they can and is satisfied with the process. “It’s nice to see how it works,” she said, “to see what people would be open to. I get so much gratification when people realize they can upgrade to a nicer vehicle when they weren’t even thinking about it in the first place. It’s a great sense of accomplishment.”

Morehead Honda uses Team Velocity Marketing’s Apollo Technology Platform to manage integrated marketing campaigns for sales, service and equity mining. Apollo automatically generates and deploys campaigns across mail, email and digital advertising, offering consistent messaging and branding, and provides a web-based dashboard to track results in real-time.

To assist her in these efforts, Morehead Honda has used several technology tools to find customers who might be receptive to a sales presentation. They recently put into place Team Velocity’s Apollo platform, which allows Daya to identify prospects who could be in the market for a vehicle based on their equity position. It also allows the dealership to generate dynamic marketing campaigns in multiple channels and track their progress and efficiency.

“Apollo has been a great tool for me because it helps me filter customers who might be interested in getting into a new vehicle out from the rest,” Daya said. “It also allows me to view their recent vehicle information and identify their equity position before I contact them.” With the help of Team Velocity, 30% of sales with a 49:1 ROI have been attributed to Apollo.

This technology allows Daya to be proactive in her presentations. “We have a portal that will literally show me if someone is clicking on certain models on our Website,” she said. “It gives me an instant notification of consumers who are displaying any interest at all. Often, I’ll be able to reach out with an email to let them know we’re here to help.”

When she first started in her position of equity consultant, Daya sold an average of six vehicles a month. Now, with more experience and new tools like Apollo, she’s averaging 20 to 25 vehicles each month, a 316% increase. “It’s something we’ve nurtured for so long over the years,” she said, “that we’ve learned what kind of process is needed for this kind of sale.”

Daya has also found that selling from an equity position can be a cross-generational success. “There’s no real direct audience, as far as age range goes,” she said. “It’s all about the timing. Someone might have just gone through a divorce and they want to get rid of their car and get into something newer. They might have a son or daughter going to college and they’ll need something to ride around in or they might have recently retired and want something different that meets their new needs. This program can reach everyone.”

By offering something customers might not have even known they wanted, Daya said that this kind of sales approach can also rehabilitate some of the negative stereotypes that often goes along with sales. “Sales guys have gotten such a bad rap over the years,” she said. “There are times when we might get a customer saying, ‘Why should I buy a Honda instead of a Subaru?’ They might think we’re trying to put one over on them, or something like that. Once you show people that you actually care about their situation, you pull that wall down. They have a pleasant experience and that leads to referrals and even more people.”

Sometimes, the best thing someone in sales can do is simply ask for the business. “The important thing is just having someone to break down the barrier and let them know their options,” Daya said. “I leave them with no obligations, but once people sit in the new car, they really sell themselves.”

Morehead Honda


This outreach is important to maintain Morehead’s position in an aggressive market. The Honda dealership faces direct competition from nearby Nissan, Kia and Toyota dealerships. “We’re contending with some really good brands that are up and coming and who have brand new showrooms that we’re competing with,” Daya said. One of the dealership’s major strengths, however, is its position in the community. “The Morehead family name is really something that has been built to last for quite some time now,” she said. The dealership has been a familiar site to the Newburgh area for more than 70 years and is very visible because of its community outreach. It sponsors, among other things, charity golf outings, cruises, ethnic festivals, pet rescues and concerts. This reputation allows for better sales because the community is familiar with the dealership and has a certain amount of trust in the company. Daya wants to build on this trust with the customers she contacts.

“I love what I’m doing now and how my position has transitioned into because I can nurture customers more than ever before,” she said. “I really love making them feel comfortable and making sure they have a great time with us. I really try to take care of them. It’s near and dear to my heart because it’s something that I put myself into every day. Obviously, the results are there. If you take care of people, they’ll take care of you.”

The family atmosphere generated by the Moreheads is also key to this trust, not only in the community but on the Morehead Honda team, as well. “The Morehead family has been so great to me,” Daya said. “That’s why I love coming to work. When you love what you do, it’s going to show.”

While she is a department of one now, Daya said she receives tremendous support from the dealership’s team and envisions a time when her department will not only expand in future growth but in profits as well. “I’m just really proud of how far we’ve come over the years,” she said. “We have a good team in place, and I’m so excited for the years to come.”

What can Apollo help you with?

AutoSuccess Story: Huggins Honda

Continuing the Incredible Climb

Huggins Honda Continues Year-Over-Year Growth, Always Searching for New Ways to Serve Its Customers.

“People can be resistant to change, so you break that resistance down by embracing it, understanding it and putting focus on it. By embracing it, our team adapts to change pretty well.”
– David Elattrache, 2017

When we last spoke with David Elattrache, general manager of Huggins Honda in North Richland Hills, Texas, in February 2017, his dealership had just put up a banner year. The dealership — which serves Fort Worth, Dallas and the northeastern section of the state — had grown its new car sales 20 percent over the previous year and had put in place some new marketing initiatives to keep that momentum going.

We wanted to check back in with Elattrache’s dealership a year later to see if he and his team had been successful in that effort. The result?

“Somehow, we were able to do it again,” he said. Huggins not only posted another 20 percent YOY growth rate in new cars, but climbed up the national charts, as well. “We ended up being 55th in the nation in 2016, so we set a goal on being, maybe, 35th in 2017. We ended up being 25th.”

This increase has made the competition surrounding Huggins take notice. “We also had the highest percentage increase in our district as well, and our retention numbers went up in both sales and service,” Elattrache said. “Then, December was a high-water mark for us against one of our competitors, Toyota. We outsold every Toyota store in the metroplex individually. Everyone was really excited because we hadn’t achieved that yet.”

While marketing, setting goals and other sound business policies have been key to this continued and increased growth, Elattrache said there was one factor that shouldn’t be overlooked — fun. “I think that’s been the biggest common denominator of it all, is just that; we’ve all had a whole lot of fun trying to achieve goals,” he said. “Everybody was just super pumped and excited. Everyone is aware of the store’s successes, opportunities and the failures that we’ve learned from. We all take pride in it and it’s been a lot of fun.”

Team Building

The idea of building a team instead of a collection of employees is one that Elattrache is very careful to keep in mind and put into action. With a staff of almost 200 people, he doesn’t want his people to become faceless cogs in the machine; the Huggins staff is one that sees that success for one is success for all.

“I give the credit to managers we have in place,” Elattrache said. “We try to hire people who not only truly care about our staff but invest in them. We build a relationship with our staff. We spend so much time with them that what’s important to them becomes important to us. We recognize that we have certain goals here at the store and the only way to achieve them is by working together. I read an article not too long ago that said ‘leadership is a total sum of all the different departments,’ and I believe that’s a very true statement.” Elattrache said this also holds true for the Huggins family, who have supported him and his team through the evolution of the dealership. The dealership, started in 1983 by Gene Huggins who worked with sons Craig and Ron, has always focused on what’s best for its team and its customers.

Sometimes, though, management has to be careful with what they say. “We had a manager say he would shave his head if the team hit a certain goal. Guess what we did when we hit that goal? We brought a barber in and shaved him bald. Everyone got a big kick out of it because it showed that we were willing to put our head where our mouth is, so to speak. We had a lot of fun with that. We try to make a hard job a fun job.”

Competitive Landscape

It’s essential for everyone at the dealership to work together, because Huggins is in an extremely competitive market. “Our biggest competitors are Toyota, Ford and Nissan,” Elattrache said. With experts projecting that car sales might be slowing down in the coming months, Huggins wants to ensure that they make the most of every opportunity with customers they have, and Elattrache believes they have the brand to beat. “We have great products,” he said. “Honda has probably some of the sexiest sheet metal I’ve ever seen. They deliver us not only a great product, but they make it look beautiful. That’s helped us a lot, I think, in our quest to outdo our competitors.”

What also helps is the willingness of other area Honda dealerships to pull together. “I think all the Honda dealers know that we’re not competitors of one another,” Elattrache said. “We’re competitors of the other manufacturers. I think that helps, at least as far as relationships and trading vehicles, and to make sure we put as many people in Hondas as we can.”

Providing Opportunity to the Customer

One of the areas Huggins has focused on to maintain and increase marketshare is through the vehicle upgrade program in their service department. “A lot of the growth we’ve seen is due to our team, the support of the Huggins family, and our strategic partners, like Team Velocity,” Elattrache said. “They’ve partnered with us for our upgrade initiative, for example, and that’s been something that’s evolved over time. I can’t say enough about that group of people. They get in there, roll up their sleeves and get to work alongside us. Their success is our success, and vice versa. In December, we sold 80 new cars as a result of that initiative. Other initiatives have been in our quick service area, where we hope to again see double-digit growth. Opportunity begets opportunity, so it’s just been a great thing.”

Part of any new initiative is learning what works and what doesn’t. When things aren’t going as planned, some leaders feel the need to scrap it before any more time and money is lost. Others, however, look to see if they can learn from mistakes. “When we first started (our upgrade initiative), we fumbled and fumbled and fumbled, and we kept getting it wrong,” Elattrache said. “We weren’t getting the success, and we weren’t getting the return on our investment either. We knew it had to evolve. We now have two people in charge of the program, and we’ve trained our sales personnel and service drive to embrace it as well. Now it’s a win-win for not only us, but mainly for the customer. Our customers are looking at a new, beautiful Honda with more technology, and are able to take full advantage of it if they want to. We’re just giving them the opportunity to do so.”

Where some would have discarded the program, Elattrache and his team continued to work it until it started to shine. “The true change has been the integration of the two right individuals in our upgrade department,” he said, “combined with the integration of both our service and our sales teams to deliver a good customer experience.”

The benefits go further than just the one-time sale, as well. “Not every one of our customers utilizing our service lane bought their car from our dealership,” Elattrache said. “We were seeing cars that were sold elsewhere being serviced in our service department. We’re able to help those people that have never had a sales experience with us have one, and so that’s been a win-win, as well.”

In addition to selling from the service lane, Elattrache has tasked Team Velocity to conquest new customers from what many dealers would consider out of market. “A lot of dealerships will try to go outside of their assigned sales area to bring in additional sales,” he said. “We realized that there’s kind of a shift in what people are wanting to drive, though. They’re not as loyal to brands anymore, but more interested in the type of vehicle they want and the experience they get when they purchase that vehicle.”

This line of thinking led Elattrache and his team outside the box of conventional thinking. “What we set out doing is conquesting within our own assigned sales area with Team Velocity, and those numbers have been tremendous for us,” he said. “In 2017, we put a total concentration of staying within our ASA and through Team Velocity’s marketing programs, we were able to reach out to those people on a consistent basis to invite them into our new facility we built in July 2015 for a brand-new experience. Team Velocity has been huge for us. They’ve been a game changer in the largest sense of the word.”

Part of the appeal of Huggins marketing team is that they know what’s working and what could be improved. “Team Velocity is very transparent,” Elattrache said. “They only take credit for what they can show us through their software and our software combined. They make it easy for us. We can go in a 10-minute meeting and basically see everything that’s been accomplished in the month prior and the results. With the results overview, we can determine the direction we need to go in for the next month.”

Future efforts will include focusing on first-time Honda customers, increasing vehicle leasing rates and a few other items that Elattrache believes will increase service repair orders. “We want to take honoring the customer’s time to a whole new level and make it an easy process for them,” he said.

Customer-Focused Effort

One of the developments at Huggins in 2017 that Elattrache feels proud of is the increased customer service his dealership is providing. “We’ve increased our focus on the customer, the attitude of our staff and the atmosphere that a customer feels when he or she walks in our doors,” he said. “It’s everything. You know how you can walk into a certain store and not feel very comfortable? A customer will never feel that here. We’ve built a culture that is based on transparency and trust. Our culture is centered around building a relationship with each and every customer.”

Part of that focus is working to educate customers on not only what they need but what they may not know is available. “Educating customers can be hard, and it can be very expensive because it
won’t bring you that immediate return on investment. It’s important to do, though.”

Huggins has found that the solution to this issue is actually the solution to most issues at a dealership: getting the team involved in the process. “You educate the consumer through your people,” Elattrache said. “The more education you give them, the more you empower them. They then represent you by educating their customers, families, friends and the people they meet. When those 197 employees are on social media, they’re able to relay what they know and what our dealership has to offer. That’s a very good thing.”

Meeting the Future

While the demands of the modern automotive consumer have evolved — and continue to evolve — Elattrache knows that it’s his job and the job of his team to meet those needs. “We don’t think about challenges. We think about opportunities. A customer is never a problem; they’re our customer. The key is to be in touch or in sync with our customers, and realize they’re wanting more of a modern retail experience. Our customers want convenience, speed, efficiency and basically, all they’re asking us to do is to keep it simple and easy. That’s how we try to make our whole transaction, not only for our customer, but for our sales staff; simple and easy.”

It’s been a big year for Huggins Honda. What would 2018’s Elattrache tell his 2017 self? “I would tell myself, ‘Hey, you can achieve so much. It’s just a matter of putting together a great team and going the whole nine yards. You all can achieve so much. Believe in the abilities of your people, your organization, your manufacturer and your partners, and just enjoy the ride. Anything is possible. Go get it.'”

AutoSuccess Story: Rocky Mount Toyota

Out of the Red and into the Black

Rocky Mount Toyota turns its future around after new leadership and fresh ideas return the store to profitability.

At first glance, the odds seemed stacked against Brent Mattingly’s dealership as he took over as general manager last year:

  • The underperforming store had been losing money and severely lacking in vision and leadership
  • The surrounding area is made up of a small, lower-income market
  • A renovation was in the future, but that meant working out of old and temporary buildings for more than a year

Despite these challenges, Mattingly and his team at Rocky Mount Toyota, located in Rocky Mount, North Carolina, have not only stopped the financial bleeding but are on track to be in the black to the tune of seven figures by the end of the year. The store, previously known as Bobby Murray Toyota, was purchased in August 2016 and became the 13th store in the Hudson Auto Group. Mattingly, who had been working as a GM in Southern Indiana, was brought on board. He knew he had some work ahead of him, but he also saw the potential.

Taking Stock of the Situation

“When we purchased the store, it was basically like being a dealership brand in 1983,” Mattingly said.

“The dealership was out of touch with what the market demanded. In a little under a year and a half’s amount of time we’ve been able to move it to the modern way of doing business.”

There were three areas Mattingly and his team knew they had to focus on to successfully modernize the dealership: leadership, processes and training. The new management team believed that the difficulties the dealership faced came from a lack of vision from the top rather than problems with the staff. With a plan set in place, everyone was able to keep their jobs in the transition.

“Everybody had just been so used to not having any leadership — any accountability measures or processes,” Mattingly said. “And the previous owners didn’t invest in the people or the facilities. They didn’t give them the training. They didn’t give them the tools they needed to have for them to be able to succeed individually, along with having the team succeed. So, when we purchased the store, that was our first initiative — to give people the skill sets that they need to be able to do their job to the level that was required by today’s market.”

The first step toward profitability was getting everyone on the same page of running a successful dealership on a day-to-day basis. “The biggest change occurred when we went in and installed processes, and made people accountable for those processes,” Mattingly said. “When we first took over the store, there were 50 employees, and there were 50 different processes. Everybody just kind of did what they saw fit and what they felt best suited them. We came in and streamlined everything and put everybody on the same processes. Everybody knew what they were expected to do each day.”

The results? “From Day One, our staff instantly increased the volume and revenue of the store. Everybody’s made it a complete success.”

Mattingly also knew that investing in training his people would make a huge difference in both the store’s profitability and his team’s personal and professional development and enjoyment of their work. “We did a lot of in-house training,” he said. “Just a lot of daily, every-situation training — every deal, every service customer, everything. We did constant all-day-long training for months and months. And we got buy-in from our people once they saw that this was working and making their job not only easier but also making it more rewarding for them. That led to instant buy-in.”

One Message, One Goal

No matter how well the staff prepared, though, the dealership’s leaders knew that getting the word out to the surrounding market was crucial to building a successful business. Although the dealership was well known by customers in the area — at 30 years, it was one of the longest-running dealerships in the region — its marketing had lagged behind. Rocky Mount Toyota’s message needed to be refreshed and reimagined.

After searching for a marketing partner, Mattingly’s team chose Team Velocity to build their branding and advertising platform for the new era. “With Team Velocity, we’re doing our vehicle exchange program through them, along with direct mail, email blasts, social media marketing, search engine optimization, and other work to build a heavy digital presence,” Mattingly said. “It works well together because it’s such a consistent message over all the platforms. Once a customer’s seen the message digitally, they’re seeing it in their mailbox, they’re seeing it on signs at the dealership. Even the receptionist answers the phone, ‘Are you calling about the vehicle exchange program?’ It’s a consistent message through all points of contact.”

Not only has the marketing become more effective, but it’s allowed the leadership, sales and service staffs to concentrate on what they do best: serving their customers. “It’s really simplified the process, and it’s put everybody on the same page,” Mattingly said. “It’s a streamlined approach; instead of having all these vendors and all these different people doing their own thing, they’re doing everything for us, and we’re able to pull together with that consistent message, rather than changing the formula every month as some places do.”

And that marketing has to be effective if the dealership is going to survive and grow. Rocky Mount, located about 50 miles outside of Raleigh, North Carolina, is a small, lower-income area, where credit scores are often challenging to work with. “It’s a very tough market that a lot of people have given up on,” Mattingly said. “But it’s one that we’re growing in and should flourish in. We’ve had to be very aggressive. Southeast Toyota has some programs for loyalty and conquest customers, and we maximize every opportunity that comes in. We want to find a way to help every customer who comes in to buy a car. We analyze every customer and every situation individually.”

Service During Construction

In any modern dealership, the service department is essential for not only repairing and maintaining customer vehicles but for maintaining a future relationship with that customer as well. Rocky Mount Toyota is in the finishing stages of constructing a state-of-the-art facility, but that has led to its own set of challenges, especially for its service department.

“Service probably has one of the messiest situations in the dealership right now,” Mattingly said. The new facility is being built on the existing property, so things have had to be shifted around as space permits until construction is completed in February 2018. “Our service write-up department is currently in our showroom,” he said. “We have to shuttle the cars to a separate building to do service. We’ve been playing a shell game and moving stuff around consistently while construction goes on.”

What’s surprising? “We’re actually growing during this period of time,” Mattingly said. “We’ve been able to grow customer PROs, warranty ROs and complete all of our ROs, even as our competitors have really come after us through their own forms of marketing, trying to steal our customer base.”

One of the elements that Mattingly credits with keeping Rocky Mount’s service department afloat and thriving is Team Velocity’s marketing efforts. “They’ve helped us keep our customer base by constantly reaching out to a perfect target mix of customers within our community,” he said. “They’re going through conquest customers, they’re going through loyalty customers, they’re going through our marketing tendered customers. We’re able to bring them in, and if a customer hasn’t come in a while, they get a more aggressive offer than a customer who is routinely coming back to us.”

Rocky Mount Toyota uses Team Velocity Apollo Technology Platform® to manage integrated marketing campaigns for sales, service and equity mining. Apollo automatically generates and deploys campaigns across mail, email and digital advertising, offering consistent messaging and branding, and provides a Web-based dashboard to track results in real-time.


Once the customers are in, the processes that Mattingly’s team put in place come into effect to give each customer a complete service experience “We have a service manager T.O. every customer in the service department, presenting menus and presenting all their options,” he said. Add to this the vehicle exchange program put into place in the service department, and the dealership has maximized this valuable profit center.

New Facility, Fresh Vision

While servicing customers in a construction zone has its challenges, Mattingly knows it will all be worth it when it’s complete. “Moving into a state-of-the-art facility will simplify a lot of things,” he said. “We’ve been growing during construction, and we’ll have the newest, nicest facility in the community, so that should gain us more business, as well. We’re looking forward to the future, and we’re committed to serving our customers and maintaining and increasing our growth and our profitability.”

Learn more about Rocky Mount Toyota and the strategies outlined in this article: