Column: Introducing 40 young automotive leaders

Column: Introducing 40 young automotive leaders

A few weeks ago I interviewed Paul Daly and Kyle Mountsier, the creative pair behind the proposed docuseries « More Than Cars. » Daly and Mountsier want to create a Netflix-style series that pulls back the curtain at dealerships across the U.S. to give viewers a look at the jobs there and the people who do them.

For instance, in the pilot episode the two interviewed a sales adviser at a Texas Kia dealership who was doing DoorDash deliveries to make money. He did a middle-of-the-night food run to an executive from the dealership who figured someone who was working at 3 a.m. had the drive to succeed selling cars. Numbers were exchanged, an interview took place and the young man was hired.

This reminded me of the special stories behind so many of the people we cover in the pages of Automotive News when I read the entries of our 40 Under 40 candidates. People who were born into it and those who took circuitous routes to the automotive retail industry.

Like Jeff Defonseka, service manager at BMW of Bridgewater in New Jersey, who came to the U.S. from Sri Lanka in 2001 as a 17-year-old. He got his first automotive job soon after and said: « I was going to community college and all I knew was that I loved cars. »

Or Tristan Topps, a HR manager for the Penske Automotive Group who’s a former Ms. Arizona and Ms. United States pageant winner.

Aaron Zimmerman‘s first dealership job was as a porter/janitor. He is now corporate fixed operations director for the Len Stoler Automotive Group in Owings Mills, Md. Zimmerman’s secret: He acts as if he’s on a 30-day contract. « It keeps me from getting complacent, » he said.

Felicia Rey, owner loyalty manager at Lynnes Nissan City in Bloomfield, N.J., originally turned down her first job offer as a dealership cashier because she didn’t know anything about cars. Replied her future boss: « I can teach anyone about cars. I can’t teach people about people. »

It’s all about people — both the customers and the dealership staff who serve them. Enjoy reading about 40 of the industry’s best and brightest young leaders.

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