Below is a Q&A with Kathi Mehall, vice president of technology in auto at Equifax and a 2017 Women in Remarketing honoree.
Auto Remarketing: What was your path to the automotive industry, and what do you enjoy most about working in the car business?
Kathi Mehall: You could say my entire path has been the automotive industry! With the exception of my first year-and-a-half after graduating from Penn State with a degree in computer science, I have always been in the automotive industry.
I joined a startup that installed the first in-house computer in a dealership in northern Virginia.
Prior to that time, dealers used online services to manage their business and often had to send away their documents to be key-punched and returned.
I know I am dating myself with that memory; however, I have watched so much happen in automotive that it is almost as if the only thing you can truly count on is change!
Kathi Mehall, Equifax
My current role with Equifax is one of the most exciting to date, as I am leveraging all my previous experience to develop products and services that incorporate Equifax’s extensive data assets to inform decisions and verifications in the automotive ecosystem.
Equifax insights are transforming automotive finance and marketing, and the expanding breadth of data available, both directly and through partnerships, is one of the many exciting developments I have seen through the years.
How could I possibly choose what I enjoy the most? My career has taken me through every aspect of the auto ecosystem, always leveraging my technical background. I spent 13 years in dealerships with ADP Dealer Services (now CDK). I was then recruited to join General Motors to bring retail technical knowledge to the manufacturer and worked directly for the CIO, Ralph Szygenda.
Ralph is a person I respect and admire, a man who taught me many things and gave me the opportunities of a lifetime to travel the globe and watch every part of the automotive manufacturing, distribution, sales and service processes. I joined GMAC when it was spun off from GM and learned automotive financial services at every level.
AR: How is the remarketing/used-car segment of the business most different from when you first started out?
KM: It would probably be easier to comment on what isn’t different, as so much has changed and evolved! When I first started out, the used-car business was much maligned and not really taken seriously, kind of the stepchild to the new-car franchise. The remarketing/used-car segment has grown to be a true force in the industry. It has become a well-respected, mature business that demands attention and respect. The value to the consumer and the importance of the segment are well-recognized by all.
Technology has transformed this industry, starting with the auction lanes, easing distribution, the shift from newspaper to digital advertising, confidence instilled by vehicle history availability and the vast access enabled by online search.
AR: How would you describe your leadership style and approach to problem-solving?
KM: My leadership style is very collaborative. I enjoy being part of a team and have always found that if you help people grow and learn, then they will enjoy what they are doing and become a high-functioning, loyal team that can solve any challenge. Problem-solving to me is gathering the facts and asking questions. I have no problem admitting I don’t know an answer and encourage open, honest dialogue.
AR: What have been some of the top keys to your success in the car business?
KM: Listening, learning and applying technology to help solve business issues and improve efficiency. Adapting to change and embracing the future. Surrounding myself with intelligent, hard-working individuals who love the car business as much as I do, so much so that it becomes a part of your DNA!
AR: Who are some folks, whether in the auto industry or not, that you admire professionally, and why?
KM: Mary Barra — watching her rise to the top at GM was amazing. The fact that she is also an engineer and a woman makes me proud to have been a colleague. Being an agent of change in such a demanding business takes courage, intelligence and tenancy, which are all attributes I aspire to.
I also admire my older brother, who built an engineering consulting business from the ground up through tremendous hard work. He takes great care of his family and his employees, and has a fabulous sense of humor, helping us all put life, and its trials, into perspective!
AR: When you are able to get away from the office or work, what do you enjoy? What are your hobbies, interests, etc.?
KM: I enjoy spending time with my family and friends whenever I can. My husband is an avid golfer and I enjoy accompanying him to all the golf courses; I just don’t fare so well playing the game!
I love to read and enjoy decorating and traveling/sightseeing.
I grew up in Pennsylvania, and the auto industry planted me in Detroit, so visiting family requires planning and time. My husband and I are both in the automotive industry and travel a great deal for work, so just enjoying a nice dinner out together is a treat!
Read about all of this year's Women in Remarketing honorees in the April 1 issue of Auto Remarketing.