Special Coverage

NADA Convention & Exposition

Ward’s conducted a series of conversations with U.S. dealers in conjunction with the National Automobile Dealers Assn.’s annual convention in New Orleans to find out what’s on their minds. The following is an interview with Chevrolet dealer Jimmy Gray of Southhaven, MS.

Ward’s: How did things end up at the close of 2008?

Gray: In a tough market, I’d say we did pretty well. My new sales were off about 18%, but the main thing we did was focus on fixed-operations and used cars. Especially in the fourth quarter, when everything was going on with the bailout, and new-car sales took a dive. The main thing we needed to happen was to get credit going again. Getting GMAC back in the game is a big piece of the puzzle. They are buying a lot deeper.

Ward’s: What’s your outlook on this year?

Gray: It won’t be easy, but we were profitable in 2008, and I don’t think it will get any worse. I’m cautiously optimistic.

Ward’s: What do you drive to and from work each day?

Gray: A Chevrolet Tahoe.

Ward’s: Have you read any good books lately?

Gray: No, but I’ve been reading too much auto news lately.

Ward’s: It’s been a few tough sales years in a row. What are some of the things you are doing at your dealership to help compensate?

Gray: We started a (business development center) almost two years ago – we are still concentrating our efforts on the BDC, but putting more emphasis on continual fixed operations, along with improving our BDC.

Ward’s: Will you be heading to New Orleans for NADA’s annual convention?

Gray: I’m going this year, but I’m embarrassed to say it’s my first year. I think with everything going on in the market, it’s important to hear from our manufacturers about all the issues. If you can come out of it with a couple of good ideas, it could be the difference in being profitable or not.

dstark@wardsauto.com