Special Coverage

NADA Convention & Exposition

Vision, Communication Key

Dennis Hansen
Owner – Hansen Chrysler Jeep
Nashville, TN

How was 2006?

It was a tough year. There were a lot of uncertainties.

What are you expecting in 2007?

I’m expecting better sales. My service and parts (businesses) have been good. But my sales (operations) have been tough this year. My volumes are down.

What’s the secret to good leadership?

I think you have to have a vision and you have to be able to communicate it.

What is one process or practice you implemented in 2006 where you look back and say, “That was a home run for us?”

We stayed closer to our customers. We try to get instant feedback so we can respond and change our processes to stay ahead of the game. We’ve always had that implemented, but I forced employees to immediately handle a problem rather than let it sit for a day or two.

Arel you be looking for anything specifically (at NADA)?

No, I’m just looking at other avenues to cultivate business.

What was the last book you read?

It was called “Nightfall,” and it was by Nelson DeMille. Great book.

What about magazines?

I’ll read Newsweek, Ward’s and Automotive News – mostly automotive publications. I get The Wall Street Journal online.

How would you handle Chrysler’s current situation?

Improve dealer/factory relations. It’s beginning to build trust in each other. I don’t know many dealers that aren’t willing to help if the factory will help itself.

More People, More Sales Opportunities

How long have you been in business?

I bought the place in 1990. I was in the business about 10 years before that.

Was 2006 a strong year for your dealership?

2006 was not a banner year, although it was better than 2005.

What are your predictions for 2007?

I think that we’ll have a better year this year. For Alaska, as long as the oil prices stay up and more people move up here, we get more business. Believe it or not a lot of people are retiring up here. A lot of people like to get away from the pressures of Florida or California. The more people that live up here, the more people we have to sell cars to and service vehicles.

Do you have any concerns?

I think that the global economy (concerns me) to a certain degree. We’re somewhat at a crossroads of both the Orient and the United States, and a lot of traffic from Europe goes through Anchorage and over the Pole. International economy somewhat indicates what Anchorage is going to be like, more so than it would in cities like St. Paul or someplace because of our international traffic. And all of this creates jobs up here. We look forward to a good year.

How is your inventory?

It’s not really heavy right now. Last year, it was real heavy at this time. But this year it’s not too bad. We don’t really have too many inventory problems because of the fact that there’s an abundance of product available from the factories, so whatever we order we get.

What are you looking for at NADA?

I’m not looking for anything specific. I’ll be interested to see what’s new in the business and so forth. It’s a tradition that I go every year.

What does good leadership mean to you?

Somebody that can capture and keep people’s attention and keep them focused on an objective. That way I can keep people interested in what they’re doing.

Do you have any 2006 success stories?

One thing that worked out rather good for us was sponsoring the Alaska Aces hockey team, of which I’m one of the owners. So naturally I want to sponsor them. It did help out, because the hockey team won the Kelly Cup. Consequently we were able to tie together two winning teams – Anchorage Chrysler Dodge and the Alaska Aces.

Do you have a favorite television show?

I enjoy watching National Geographic and commentary shows and such. I probably like (Bill) O’Reilly as much as anybody.

Do you read many magazines?

I read Alaska Business Monthly, Motor Trend and so forth.

What would you tell your manufacturers?

Give me my market back!

Managing Floor Plan Main Concern

What was 2006 like for you?

It was a different year as a Dodge dealer. I don’t have to say why.

Because of the Chrysler Group’s sales bank?

Because of the sales bank. I’m looking for a smoother year in 2007.

How many vehicles do you think the industry will sell overall in 2007?

I’ve seen predictions ranging from 16.5 million to the high 15 millions, but I don’t think about that. I can’t worry about it because I have (five) stores to run.

How do the markets you are in differ from one another?

(Metro) Detroit’s market has the best volume. Our Fort Meyers, FL, store has the best profit margins, because we sell a lot of used cars there.

Your biggest concern going into 2007?

Managing floor plan is a main concern, because the interest rates are still up. We won’t be carrying the same Dodge inventory levels as last year. Saturn is a different story, because of all the new product they’ve been introducing. (General Motors Corp.) forgot about us Saturn dealers for a couple of years. But then it realized that good, exciting product, coupled with the high level of service and the outstanding customer satisfaction that Saturn dealers provide creates some real opportunities.

What will be your main efforts this year?

We’ll be concentrating more on used vehicles. But as a franchised new-car dealer, it still goes back to wanting to roll the new cars.

egenoff@wardsauto.com