Over the last decade, Auto Remarketing has celebrated the leadership of accomplished Women in Remarketing.
Leaders in their companies, these women’s dedication to the auto industry and their purposeful strides have blazed career paths for other women — and men — to follow.
As Auto Remarketing celebrates the 10th anniversary of Women in Remarketing this year, we caught up with three past honorees who are still in the auto industry and still making a difference.
So what are they up to now? We’re glad you asked.
Lesley Lovallo, Vice President of Corporate Development, Larry H. Miller Dealerships
Over the last several years, the retail auto industry has enjoyed unprecedented prosperity, and business is still good, said Lesley Lovallo, vice president of corporate development at Larry H. Miller Dealerships, in Sandy, Utah.
But sales in the last several months are leveling off, said Lovallo, who was a Women in Remarketing honoree in 2015.
That’s why it comes in handy that the dealership group, since 2010, has established training programs for virtually every position in the dealership from general managers to salespersons and from fixed operations to finance and insurance.
Lovallo, who helps design the programs’ curriculum, said training employees during good times keeps the group prepared for business slow-downs and helps with employee retention.
“Everybody is having to work a little bit harder to achieve what they were used to getting over the last few years,” she said. “It’s a bit of a wake-up call, because people reflect on (the Great Recession of) 2008 and 2009. So, we feel that the best time to grow, develop, train and look at how we can better the company is when we don’t have to.”
Among those training programs is the Larry H. Miller Used Car Manager Academy, which started in 2016. It teaches employees how to buy and sell vehicles at auctions, how to manage used-vehicle inventory and how to keep a handle on costs.
The company offers in-dealership training and courses online to appeal to millennials and those who want training at their fingertips via computer, tablet or smartphone, Lovallo said.
“Knowledge is power,” she said. “At Larry H. Miller, they don’t keep knowledge close to the cuff; they don’t try to keep it a secret.”
The dealership group is also working hard to make it easier for customers to complete more of the car buying process online before they get to the dealership, she said.
“We have some dealerships with programs in place to do that; we’re working on it like everybody else,” she added.
A self-described “workaholic,” Lovallo is also an avid home repair do-it-yourselfer.
She knows how to replace toilets and mastered the installation of ceiling fans and flooring.
“There’s pretty much not a project in the house that I haven’t tackled,” she said. “My latest project is drywall repair, and it turned out really well.
“The worst thing that can happen is that I do it wrong, and I have to hire somebody to do it. I’m not afraid to give it a shot.”
Jenell Ross, President, Bob Ross Auto Group
Jenell Ross, president of Bob Ross Auto Group, in Centerville, Ohio, was serving as chairwoman of the American International Automobile Dealers Association when she joined the Women in Remarketing ranks in 2013.
So, it isn’t surprising that she is still working for the greater good of the retail auto industry.
In January, she was appointed chair of the board of directors of the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland, Cincinnati branch, for 2019. She became a director of the branch board last year, and prior to that, served on a Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland advisory council in Dayton, Ohio, with other business leaders for several years.
Ross said running her family’s dealership is a full-time job, but making time for the Cleveland Fed is important because it enables her to be the eyes, ears and voice of the dealer on a board that influences the formulation of the nation’s monetary policy.
“They’re listening to me when I tell them the rise in interest rates and with new-vehicle prices at an all-time high, is pushing car and truck buyers away from new vehicles and into the used-vehicle market,” she said.
The Trump Administration’s proposal to impose steep tariffs on imported vehicles and vehicle parts, if enacted, could affect all manufacturers, she added.
Ross’ father, Robert Ross Sr., started the family-owned dealership in 1974. Like most second-generation dealers, she worked at the store — mostly in its accounting department — while in high school and college.
Ross became the dealership’s dealer principal, and her mother, Norma J. Ross, was its president and CEO, after her father died in 1997. Ross and her mother operated the dealership together until Norma J. Ross died of breast cancer in 2010.
To better match her customer base, Ross divested her Alfa Romeo and Fiat stores in 2018. She is excited about the futures of the brands her company represents: Buick, GMC and Mercedes-Benz.
“Our clients are interested to see Buick go from a car brand to really an SUV brand, GMC continues to bring to market the utility and functionality that everyone wants from a technology and luxury perspective and Mercedes is on a true product offensive with much more to come,” she said.
Despite her hectic schedule, Ross also finds time to oversee the Norma J. Ross Memorial Foundation, started in 2010 in honor of her mother. The foundation supports youth education programs and breast cancer awareness, treatment and research to find a cure for the disease.
Pink Ribbon Driven is a foundation trademark.
Its logo, pink ribbon adorned with black stitching that is threaded through a steering wheel, is the public face of the foundation’s breast cancer fighting efforts and is used on merchandise — such as caps, t-shirts and pins — that is sold to raise money for the foundation.
This year Ross will recognize the ninth anniversary of her mom’s death by partnering with the American Cancer Society, the American Heart Association and local hospitals to hold a health day, on Sept. 21, at her dealership. Free mammograms and cholesterol and blood pressure screenings are among the events scheduled, she said.
Her father died of heart disease.
Renee Encerti, Director of Marketing, Davis-Moore Auto Group
When Auto Remarketing connected with Renee Encerti for its inaugural Women in Remarketing feature in 2009, she had a different last name, a different job title and different job duties.
What remains the same for the dealership director of marketing is her employer — Davis Moore Auto Group in Wichita, Kan. — and her commitment to building relationships with the customers she serves.
“It’s a relationship-building industry; it’s always going to be a relationship building industry,” said Encerti, whose last name was Dusek-Higgins before she remarried in 2014 and whose previous title was director of e-commerce and internet sales.
“However, with the mobile platforms, social media and reviews, I think it’s more important now than ever to continue that relationship building. There is so much information (consumers) have access to that transparency is key, and it has to be — across all the different platforms.”
Encerti said her promotion and job duties didn’t really change as much as they evolved with technology and the times.
In 2008, she was in charge of the dealership group’s business development center, and her digital marketing duties were pretty much limited to the managing the dealership’s website and its search engine marketing.
Then social media morphed into a marketing platform, and her duties expanded to include target marketing, such as retargeting or serving ads to people who visited the dealership’s website, and she is in charge of the dealership group’s business-to-business and business-to-consumer networking.
Encerti said the digital side of her job changes almost daily. So though she confers regularly with the group’s business development center manager and helps oversee the BDC along with the group’s general manager, she is no longer in charge of its day-to-day management.
“That’s why I try to expand my knowledge and always continue to learn,” said Encerti, who attends trade shows that offer training, seminars and insights about the latest trends.
“The learning and networking have helped with exponential growth, as far as me staying on top of industry standards.”
When Encerti is away from the dealership group, she loves spending time with her family. One of her favorite activities is making nutritious fruit smoothies with her two 3-year-old granddaughters, who call her “Lolly.”
“They think it’s ice cream,” she said, laughing. “We’re kinda health freaks.”
Women in Retail program launches this summer
As the aforementioned stories from these women show, the retail side of automotive is full of strong leadership. And to continue the momentum started by Women in Remarketing, Auto Remarketing will be launching an awards program this summer that specifically recognizes leaders on the retail side of the auto industry: Women in Retail.
In a setup similar to our Women in Remarketing and Women in Auto Finance franchises, the inaugural class of Women in Retail will be recognized in the July 1 issue of Auto Remarketing and at Used Car Week this fall.
Stay tuned for more details.