Fireside chats, discussions focused on artificial intelligence and analytics and vehicle sales and price predictions were among the focal points that dominated Used Car Week, held Nov. 11-14 in Las Vegas.
But amid those compelling conversations and power sessions, time was taken during the conference to recognize the accomplishments and contributions of outstanding women and men who drive the auto industry.
Front and center were the Used Car Awards, sponsored by TradeRev, which were handed out at the Used Car Awards Luncheon, sponsored by TradeRev parent KAR Global. The event recognized dealerships and dealership groups for professional excellence.
Stephen Cavender, dealer principal of Cavender Toyota in San Antonio, took home the CPO Dealer of the Year Award, which was sponsored by KAR’s ADESA business unit.
“Creating customer relationships is really what the Cavender team does that makes me so proud,” Cavender said. “We have a purpose in our business called making confidence happen. We have 320 employees — team members — who make confidence happen every day, and this is a wonderful recognition of that.”
Watkins Automotive in Jackson, Miss., is the new home of this year’s Independent Dealer of the Year Award. Steven Watkins, the dealership’s owner, said the award means a lot to him and his dealership, because “it’s been a tough year.”
Increased competition from “bigger players” in the used-vehicle space and thinner margins makes it’s harder for independent dealers to purchase vehicles and be competitive, he said.
“We’ve been in business 17 years and come a long way; just to get this award motivates us going forward,” Watkins added.
Mercedes-Benz of Salisbury, in Salisbury, Md., claimed the Franchise Dealer of the Year Award. The store is owned by Pohanka Automotive Group of Salisbury.
Also honored at the Used Car Awards Luncheon were Tiers 1, 2 and 3 Auto Groups of the Year.
HGreg in St-Eustache, Quebec, with dealerships in the U.S. and Canada, was named Tier 3 Auto Group of the Year.
“The 2,400 men and women that do what they do every day at HGreg makes this possible,” said HGreg president John Hairabedian, of his employees. “This is 100% me accepting this on their behalf.”
Carvana’s quick studies
Claiming the Tier 2 Auto Group of the Year was industry disrupter, Carvana, headquartered in Phoenix.
Traditionally, Carvana’s employee-base is not from the auto industry, does not have a full grasp of the “dealership world” when they join the company, said Scott Wood, the Carvana director of wholesale operations who accepted the award.
But they put in the work to learn the retail business and then coordinate their efforts with other teams such as logistics and marketing in multiple markets.
“I’m one of the few who did come from the dealer world,” Wood said. “To see what people without that experience have been able to do, string that entire vehicle sale together for the benefit of the customer, and see the customer embrace it. It’s fun for me to watch.”
Andy Mohr Automotive of Plainfield, Ind., was named Tier 1 Auto Group of the Year. Used-car director Dennis Pennington accepted the award on behalf of the group.
Elsewhere at Used Car Week, this year’s inaugural class of Women in Retail took the spotlight during a panel discussion that covered a number of topics from thriving in an industry dominated by men to the importance of companies having work days that allow all employees — not just women — the opportunity to have a healthy work-life balance.
Sponsored by CDK Global, the panel was moderated by Kathy Gilbert, CDK Global director of customer success.
Robin Hill, client adviser at Hendrick Lexus Charlotte in Charlotte, N.C., said she will never be part of the boys club, “but that’s okay.”
She cautioned women against “trying to be something that you’re not. You focus on who you are, and be very confident in who you are. When I walk though those doors, even though it says Hendricks Lexus, this is my house. Everyone who walks in, these are my guests, and I’m going to take really good care of them.”
Holly Vollant, senior vice president enterprise accounts at CarLotz, applauded her employer for having a diverse workforce from parts and service to its corporate team, and flexible schedules that are particularly attractive to women and the younger generation.
But she recalled when she started in the industry on the wholesale side “it was not a 9-to-5; it was not even 8-to-6. It was the wee hours of the morning,” the night before a sale “to maybe the wee hours of the next morning,” Vollant said. CarLotz is based in Richmond, Va.
During the Women in Auto Finance discussion, honoree Michele Rodgers, chief information officer at Exeter Finance, of Irving, Texas, advised young people who are looking to advance in the industry to know their jobs well, and take advantage of all training and new opportunities.
“Have a good understanding of the end-to-end process, so you know where you fit, and you know where you can provide value to the company,” she said. “That’s what we’re all here to do. You want to excel in your job, and you want to support the company and their strategic objectives.”
The Women in Auto Finance panel was sponsored by American Recovery Service of El Dorado Hills, Calif., and moderated by Cortney Osborne, the company’s executive vice president of operations.
Autonomous, electric, connected, shared
Sponsored by Ally Financial, the Women in Remarketing panel was moderated by Kathy Ruble, Ally’s executive director for auto marketing and dealer communications. This year, the Women in Remarketing Awards celebrated its 10th anniversary.
Honoree Meggan O’Malley, director of innovation and new product development at Insurance Auto Auction, of Westchester, Ill., predicted that the 2029 Women in Remarketing panel discussion will revolve around an industry dominated by vehicles that are increasingly autonomous, electric, connected and shared.
“I can foresee virtual reality being incorporated in the bid and buy experience,” O’Malley said. “As remarketers, it’s important for us that we stay ahead of industry trends, and as innovators, it’s important for us to prepare for the inevitable disruptive future.”
Also during the conference:
- Used Car Week’s National Remarketing Conference celebrated its 20th anniversary.
- The National Remarketer of the Year Award, sponsored by Auction Management Solutions, honored Steve Solomon of Santander Consumer USA.
- The 2019 class of the Remarketing and Used-Car Industry’s 40 Under 40 were honored in a program sponsored by IAA.
- Auto Finance Executive of the Year Award, sponsored by Black Book: Bill Jones, CEO and president, Regional Acceptance Corp., and executive vice president and manager of BB&T Dealer Retail Services, Greenville, N.C.
- Copart, of Dallas, was named Innovator of the Year, an award sponsored by Consolidated Asset Recovery Systems.
- Vincentic’s Best CPO Value in America Awards named Subaru its Best Passenger Car and Best SUV and Crossover Brands; Lexus was named Best Luxury Car Brand; and Ram took home Best Truck Brand.
- ALG’s 2020 Pre-Owned Value Awards gave the nod to Toyota as its top Mainstream brand and to Toyota’s upscale sibling, Lexus, as its top Luxury brand. A new award category, Premium Subcompact Utility, was added this year and claimed by Audi’s Q3.
- IntelliChoice shared its 2020 IntelliChoice Certified Pre-Owned Car Awards. Kia won for the popular category, while Cadillac won for the premium category.
- The Best Auto Auctions to Work For were honored during a breakfast. The program is sponsored by CARS Recon.