Ohio has many assets that are critical to the automotive industry

Ohio is actively investing in the automotive industry, both in the traditional automotive supply chain and in the connected and autonomous vehicle space. The state continues to show its value to the industry as a place for new investment. It has unique assets for testing, a government that’s friendly toward the smart mobility sector, a large and capable workforce, low overhead costs and an advantageous proximity to suppliers.

Smart Business spoke with Kristi Tanner, senior managing director at JobsOhio, about the state of and outlook for Ohio’s automotive industry.

How would you characterize the state of Ohio’s automotive industry at the moment?

Ohio’s automotive industry is very active, especially in the automotive supply chain and in R&D. A number of recent announcements have bolstered the industry, including some international investment. Japan’s Topre Corp. expanded in the Ohio market one year ago and is expanding again, and Canada-based Hematite recently opened its first U.S. manufacturing operation in the Dayton region.

What can Ohio offer automotive companies?

Ohio gives automotive companies a strategic position to reach customers and suppliers within a single-day’s truck drive. The state offers low-cost operations, and a large, capable automotive workforce. There’s also a growing segment of the industry that comprises up-and-coming companies that are focused on smart mobility and connected and autonomous vehicles. Those companies are doing their R&D and testing in Ohio because the state has a mix of resources that is unparalleled in the U.S.

How is Ohio positioned to support automotive innovations?

Ohio is a living lab for both controlled and open-road testing and has resources and partners to help companies complete that testing. The Transportation Research Center in East Liberty is the largest automotive proving ground in the U.S. Its 4,500-acre campus has testing facilities that more than 800 customers can use 24/7.

The TRC broke ground on its Smart Mobility Advanced Research and Test Center — 540 acres within the existing property that will include custom facilities for R&D and testing for smart mobility. It includes a real-world environment with an urban area cityscape that features many potential roadway conditions. Currently there is no other facility that large and built out that is housed within an existing proving ground that’s open for all companies to use.

Right outside TRC’s gate is a 35-mile stretch of four-lane divided highway, the Route 33 Smart Mobility Corridor. It’s designated for open-road testing and was supported by an investment from Ohio and the federal government. It boasts a fiber optic network and dedicated short-range communications units that stretch the length of the highway and enable testing of connected vehicle technology. That corridor dumps into Dublin and Columbus, the latter of which was designated by the U.S. Department of Transportation as the first and only winner of the Smart City Challenge. That earned the city $40 million from the U.S. DOT. Columbus parlayed that into $510 million from other sources, which it will use to turn itself into a leader in smart city technologies.

How are Ohio and its partners working to address the challenges automotive companies in the state face?

One of the most significant challenges companies across the country face is a shortage of manufacturing workers. In Ohio, stakeholders are working to address that issue. For instance, JobsOhio’s talent acquisition program works with companies to recruit and train workers. These are in-demand skills that are required for up-and-coming connected and autonomous vehicle manufacturing and testing. Fortunately for Ohio, the state produces more than 12,000 engineering and engineering technician graduates each year, many of whom have the needed skills to be successful in the smart mobility space. The state is also open to new technology. Gov. John Kasich signed an executive order in May to authorize autonomous vehicle testing in Ohio and to lay out a road map for how the industry can test their technologies in the state. That will go a long way to support continued testing of autonomous vehicles in the state.

Insights Economic Development is brought to you by JobsOhio

Don’t just say ‘customers first’ — mean it!

Bernie Moreno, Owner, Collection Auto Group

This is the third part of an interview with Bernie Moreno, the owner of Collection Auto Group. For more, please see:

Collection Auto Group

Managing growth while maintaining culture

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?

Make a decision. Too many times in business we are faced with hundreds of choices and options. Given the fast pace at which business moves today, you have to trust your judgment and make a decision. Second piece of advice that goes along with this: be right at least 51 percent of the time!

When you think about putting your customers first, describe your philosophy for what that means and how you impart that to your team members?

Customer’s first is a philosophy EVERY business CLAIMS to have as part of their culture. There is no organization that would say they don’t value their clients. However, saying it and LIVING it are two entirely different issues. We live that philosophy by creating a culture in which our team members put the customer at the center of everything we do. We know our clients can “fire us” at any time and we never take for granted that we must execute every day. Of course, that culture hinges on having great people, which we are very fortunate to have an abundance of.

How do you empower your staff to go above and beyond for customers?

They are defaulted to say “yes.” If a team member is going to disappointment a client, that’s my job. I am the only one allowed to say “no.”

What is your philosophy for continuous growth — and continuous improvement?

The business world is changing at a speed that is unprecedented in history. We look at ways of reinventing ourselves, not just changing and evolving.

When you think about your business, what keeps you up at night, and what do you do to resolve it?

Nothing keeps me up at night. Business is my career and I never personalize it by letting it stress my personal life. That would not be fair to my family.

Collection Auto Group

28450 Lorain Road

North Olmsted, OH 44070

Phone: 440,716.2700

E-mail: [email protected]

Web: www.collectionautogroup.com

Facebook: www.facebook.com/pages/Collection-Auto-Group

Managing growth while maintaining culture

Bernie Moreno, Owner, Collection Auto Group

Last year, we introduced you to Collection Auto Group and owner Bernie Moreno.

The company is still making tremendous strides in the automotive industry, so we sat down with Moreno again to see how Collection Auto Group continues to drive success.

What’s your greatest business challenge?

Managing our growth while maintaining our culture. We have grown from 25 people to almost 300 in just under seven years. We have a very unique culture that puts the customer at the core of everything we do. We don’t consider ourselves a “dealership,” but rather, we consider ourselves a customer service business. As such, recruiting, hiring, motivating and retaining the absolute top performers is critical. We also spend a lot of attention on making certain everyone understands our mission and our core values.

What makes you an innovative leader?

I don’t know if I am an “innovative leader,” but I do know we always look for creative solutions to challenges others have found difficult or impossible. We strive to keep our organization on the leading edge by being on the forefront of technology; whether by using social media, iPads for our sales people, or state of the art customer relationship management systems.

What’s the greatest lesson you’ve learned in business?

Not everyone has the skills needed to be singularly devoted to following through on the mastery of the details required to delivery excellent customer service. Knowing this, we continually reinforce the need to put in place organizational processes to help manage these details.

What has been Collection Auto Group’s impact on the economy?

We employ almost 300 people and generate over $250,000,000 in gross sales revenue. We are one of the largest collectors of sales tax in Cuyahoga County. We donate about $500,000 to local charities. We also provide human capital in the community to help improve this region.

How do you provide value and go “above and beyond”?

We take the purchase or servicing of a car from a transaction to an experience. Anyone call “sell” a luxury vehicle; we want to provide our customers one of the best, if not the best, service experiences they have ever had.

Collection Auto Group

28450 Lorain Road

North Olmsted, OH 44070

Phone: 440,716.2700

E-mail: [email protected]

Web: www.collectionautogroup.com

Facebook: www.facebook.com/pages/Collection-Auto-Group

September automotive sales up, allaying fears of recession

DETROIT ― Major automakers posted double-digit percentage U.S. sales gains for September in a rebound that General Motors Co. said showed the economy was likely to steer clear of a double-dip recession.

Among the Detroit automakers, GM sales rose 20 percent, while Ford’s rose 9 percent and Chrysler Group was up 27 percent. Nissan Motor Co saw a sales gain of 25 percent and Volkswagen AG posted a sales increase of 36 percent.

The initial sales reports put industrywide sales on track to near 13 million vehicles on an annualized basis, at the high end of the range of analysts’ forecasts.

That would represent the strongest sales pace since April and an increase of roughly 10 percent from the sales rate of September 2010.

Last month’s auto sales were bolstered by increased inventory levels for Japanese automakers that had been depleted through the summer, by steady gasoline prices and a trickle back of demand from customers looking to replace aging vehicles, executives and analysts said.

GM sales chief Don Johnson said the September auto sales and other recent economic data “all point to a slow growth scenario but not a double dip.”

GM kept its forecast for industrywide auto sales unchanged and said it expected to see increasing sales in October through December.

The top U.S. automaker forecasts overall U.S. vehicle sales of at least 13 million, including medium and heavy duty trucks. That would be up from the sales rate of 12.8 million on that basis in the year to date.

In another indicator of economic resilience, U.S. factory activity expanded at a faster pace than expected in September, the Institute for Supply Management said on Monday.VW America Chief Executive Jonathan Browning said the September sales results pointed to a moderate increase in U.S. auto sales through the remainder of the year.

“It’s hard to give a very simple summary because a lot of people are anxious about the future and you see that in the consumer sentiment, consumer confidence surveys, but at the same time many people are recognizing that this is a good time to buy,” he said.

U.S. auto sales represent one of the earliest snapshots of consumer demand.

GM shares were up 1 percent at $20.41 around midday and Ford Motor Co shares were flat at $9.67.

August automotive sales up despite economic turbulence

DETROIT ― Major automakers posted double-digit U.S. sales gains for August from year-earlier levels, a steady result for a month that began with a plunge on Wall Street and ended with a hurricane shutting down the East Coast.

General Motors Co. reported a sales gain of 18 percent, slightly below some analyst expectations. Ford Motor sales were up 11 percent. Chrysler had its best August sales in four years with a 31 percent sales increase.

Auto industry executives said the sales gains pointed to an encouraging stability in demand for big-ticket purchases in the face of renewed economic uncertainty.

“In our view, consumers are being cautious, yes, and rightly so, but they are not retrenching,” said GM’s head of U.S. sales, Don Johnson. “You have to remember that the sales we’re seeing are very low by historical standards.”

Sales for Nissan Motor Co. rose 19 percent. Sales for Volkswagen AG were up 10 percent.

GM estimated that industrywide U.S. auto sales would be about flat from July when adjusted for seasonal factors and tracked on an annualized basis.

Collection Auto Group

Bernie Moreno, Owner, Collection Auto Group

While their locations are in North Olmsted, Cleveland and Beachwood, Collection Auto Group and owner Bernie Moreno truly service the world.

The Collection Auto Group is a privately owned business composed of multiple automotive dealerships and an on-site performance center. Moreno started building his empire in 2005 with the purchase of the Mercedes-Benz dealership in North Olmsted. Later he added Porsche, North Olmsted Performance, Lotus, Saab, Fisker, Sprinter, Acura and Infiniti over the next five years.

Moreno and staff have made many achievements in the automotive industry since opening in 2005, including: Mercedes-Benz “Best of the Best” Award 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009 and 2010; #1 Mercedes-Benz Dealership in Ohio; #1 Mercedes-Benz Dealership in the Central USA; #1 McLaren SLR dealer in the world; #1 Porsche dealer in Ohio; #1 Porsche dealer in the Central USA; First German “Autohaus” designed Mercedes-Benz dealership in North America; #1 Saab dealership in Ohio; and #1 Lotus dealer in Ohio.

Smart Business spoke with Moreno to discuss how he’s been able to build success and drive growth.

What was one of the biggest obstacles you were able to overcome?

During the peak of the economic crisis in 2008 and 2009, we made the strategic decision to add staff and spend more in advertising to gain market share and further improve our customer service. We knew everyone would be doing the opposite and that our approach would put us in a great position to build momentum.

Why did you decide to add staff and spend more?

We define our business as a service delivery business and knew that every other dealership would be cutting critical customer-facing employees. We saw this as an opportunity to staff up and increase our service level with the aim of increasing market share.

What makes you an innovative leader?

We foster a spirit of fun throughout the dealership that customers recognize and appreciate when they come here. We also look to the newest technologies and adapt our processes accordingly to suit our customers’ needs.

Why is a spirit of fun so important? What makes a good company culture?

I love cars. I can’t imagine why someone would not find buying a new car fun. It never made sense to me. What is better than getting a new car? As a result, we try to instill that culture in our sales team. A good culture is one that everyone understands and follows … and achieves the desired result!

What new technologies have you utilized and how have they made you more efficient?

We use iPads and touch screen TVs throughout the dealership and have invested heavily in IT to improve our customer experience.

You’re a big proponent of supporting local businesses. Why is that so important?

It’s the circle of life. I live in this community. My kids live in this community and will always know Cleveland as their hometown. To really be effective as a business, you have to give back to your town more than you took. That is our goal.

We have increased employment tenfold in six years. We spent almost $15,000,000 in construction, all of it with vendors or suppliers from Northeast Ohio. We spend over $3 million in local media.

What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned?

Set high expectations for yourself first and motivate your team to do the same for themselves.

Collection Auto Group

28450 Lorain Road

North Olmsted, OH 44070

Phone: 440,716.2700

E-mail: [email protected]

Web: www.collectionautogroup.com

Facebook: www.facebook.com/pages/Collection-Auto-Group