The Automotive Love Affair: A 10-Year Snap Shotby Audrey Morris on September 01, 2011
As I approach nearly a decade of working in the automotive industry, I realized so much of what I’ve come to learn about the business world has been shaped by my unique perspective of America’s love affair with the automobile.
When I was 15 years old, I realized that it was time to put a plan in place to ensure I had a vehicle of my own upon receiving my driver’s license. Of course, the underlying driver of that plan was to earn some money, and quick! I went (yes-went and not “online”) to the mall and applied for any available position I could put my eager little hands on. Soon, I found myself with a job at Burdines (which is now Macy’s) working as the (very) official dinnerware specialist. I couldn’t have been more excited, well, until the weight of the responsibility of being a full time student, part-time dinnerware guru and balancer of all things extra-curricular set in. It wasn’t that I didn’t enjoy my ”career” in dinnerware, it was that I didn’t like to miss out on the evening and weekend hangouts with my friends. Yet still, I distinctly recall putting everything into focus when I would think about the car I would soon own. The car symbolized freedom and truly owning something of my own. I can unequivocally say that I have never focused on one single purchase the way I did when I was 15.
When the time came to purchase my first car, I decided on a pre-owned 1989 Pontiac Sunfire. My favorite feature was the pop-up sunroof; it made the whole driving experience more fun and more free! I was so proud and excited to show the world what I’d worked so hard for. I was finally part of the “freedom club” and found I truly loved to drive.
It was just a few years (and a few cars later, the Pontiac didn’t hold up so well) that I was working at an automotive group in Tampa as a receptionist. It was then that I witnessed first-hand the kind of excitement a new car can create in everyone, not just the anxious teenager. Each day, I met people who were thrilled to be taking delivery of something new. It was also then that I learned the fundamentals of brand loyalty. As a 19 year-old, I pulled up to work everyday in awe of all the different options (admittedly, I wanted a new car every week). The auto group carried nearly a dozen different makes and models yet I would notice that customers were often very committed to “their brand”. A new family would trade up from a Mazda car to a Mazda SUV or a long-time Nissan owner would choose a compact Nissan car for their teenager. These customers had come to trust their brand and that confidence guided their purchasing considerations time and time again.
When it came time for me to attend Florida State University, I spoke with the leadership team at Tampa auto dealer to determine if they had any contacts in the Tallahassee area. That is when learned of the Proctor Dealerships, a family owned auto group since 1910. Upon interviewing at the Proctor GM store, I recall looking at the old black and white photos of all the different generations of the Proctors and their customers and thinking about the way the automobile has become such a staple in the American dream. There is such a tremendous amount of enthusiasm when people buy or even talk about buying their next car and I came to realize how much I wanted to be a part of this experience. Eventually, I became responsible for the marketing and communication efforts for the Proctor stores and came to enjoy customer events more than anything else. These events fostered conversation with customers, dealership employees and the owners about the “latest and greatest” in the industry. People are truly passionate about the cars they drive, the cars they want to drive and the cars they want people in their “circle” to drive. It’s tough to beat being part of a team that engages people with the automobile.
When I joined the Moore Consulting Group team, I was incredibly energized for the opportunity to work alongside one of the most prominent global automakers in the world. Everyday, our Ford team is charged with developing and implementing ways to engage media, car enthusiasts, dealers, influencers and consumers with the Ford brand. It is through these interactions that I have come to understand the magnitude and economic importance of the industry. Some of my most inspired career moments have been learning about the dealers who have built their career and in many cases, a legacy by selling and servicing Fords in their community. Take for example Wendall Crowe, second generation owner of Covington Ford. Next week I will be traveling to attend the ribbon cutting ceremony of Ford’s first LEED certified dealership (Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design - LEED) in conjunction with the dealer’s 70th business anniversary. As the original owner, Wendell W. Crowe was deeply connected to Ford in the company’s earliest days. Mr. Crowe was one of Henry Ford’s first working group members to bring Mercury to market and he worked at a Ford plant before purchasing his own dealership in 1941. Since his purchase of the Covington area’s first Ford dealership, he has since built a legacy for the second and third generation of the Crowe family. Second generation owner Wendell D. Crowe made the decision to open a state-of-the-art green facility to ensure the Crowe family’s legacy with Ford continues with the third generation owners. This is the kind of passion that drives the American automobile industry.
In the film Art & Copy, it was noted that ones commitment to a brand is driven by the need to distinguish oneself. In essence, a brand connects you to something bigger. The brand is the symbol for the club or the badge of honor. Think about the Ford vs. Chevy bumper stickers you see around town or Mac vs. Microsoft ads. When you combine the significance of this sense of belonging with the passion people feel about vehicles, it’s quite amazing to think about how endless the opportunities are for the industry. Automobiles set the foundation for freedom, create memories, and generate unparalleled excitement and it is so incredibly rewarding to be a part of the ride.