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TrueCar Sponsors Ten Full Ride AutoCon 2013 Scholarships – The 2013 AutoConnections Conference and Exposition

AutoCon 2013 Announces a Special Program Sponsored by TrueCar to Award Ten “Full Ride Scholarships” for Dealership Managers to Attend AutoCon 2013*

Automotive Media Partners, LLC is proud to announce the creation of a “Full Ride Scholarship*” program sponsored by TrueCar of Santa Monica, California.  TrueCar’s pioneering sponsorship of this program provides the funds to cover the costs of transportation to and from Las Vegas, lodging at the Aria Resort and full AutoCon conference registration. 

One of the most surprising aspects of TrueCar’s sponsorship is that the company has funded ten (10) AutoCon “Full Ride Scholarships*”.  Ten automotive professionals will receive the educational, networking, inspiration and innovation benefits from attending the 2013 AutoConnections Conference and Exposition at no out of pocket expense for travel, meals during the event or conference fees to themselves or their dealerships. 

  

The TrueCar AutoCon Scholarship Program is further evidence of the remarkable transformation that has taken place at TrueCar since the beginning of 2012. After receiving a remarkable level of criticism within the auto industry during the second half of 2011, TrueCar has evolved and revised their automotive purchasing programs for consumers and affiliated corporations to be far more dealer friendly. 

TrueCar’s objectives supported by these changes have included raising dealer profit margins to levels that provide more room for dealers to cover facility costs and the staffing levels needed to properly service new vehicle buyers sent to them by TrueCar.   


TrueCar understands and recognizes the need for ongoing training and thought leadership within the ranks of the retail automotive industry.  Their management team has decided that one of the best ways to demonstrate this commitment to betterment of the industry is to commit the funds necessary to support independent dealer focused educational events such as AutoCon 2013. 

 

TrueCar executives Bernie Brenner and Mike Timmons approached the founders of the Automotive Digital Marketing and dealerElite professional communities, Ralph Paglia, Chris Saraceno and Mike Myers because these online networks have served as “Ground Zero” for some of the industry’s harshest criticism of TrueCar in the recent past.  Surprising for a company as large as TrueCar is, their management team has reviewed the criticism published by members of the ADM and DealerELITE networks and taken corrective actions, changed their business models and worked with State dealer associations to create vehicle purchase programs that make sense for participating dealers. 

How will the TrueCar AutoCon Scholarships be Awarded?

TrueCar has asked that the AutoConnections Conference Management Team take full control and responsibility for ensuring that the 10 Full Ride Scholarships be awarded based on merit and need.  Criteria will include a wide geographic representation by selecting automotive professionals from every region in North America.  Another consideration will be to award scholarships to professionals who represent a diverse range of vehicle brands and positions within the dealerships they serve.  

Written TrueCar Scholarship Application

The application process will be a simple online application that includes all the expected contact information, a description of the applicant’s role in the dealership where they work and space for them to describe in their own words why they should be awarded a TrueCar AutoCon Scholarship to attend the AutoConnections Conference and Exposition in Las Vegas from September 4th to the 6th

Video TrueCar Scholarship Application

If you are better at explaining your reasons why you should be selected for a scholarship in a verbal manner, the AutoCon 2013 TrueCar scholarship committee will also be pleased to accept your proposal in a video format. Simply explain why you should be selected in a YouTube video that is either uploaded or embedded to eitherAutomotiveDigitalMarketing.com or dealerELITE.net . Please be sure to include the link to that video in your scholarship application where you write out your explanation of why YOU should be selected to receive a “Full Ride Scholarship”.

The AutoCon Scholarship Selection Committee is comprised of Ralph Paglia, Chris Saraceno, Mike Myers, Carrie Hemphill and Brian Pasch.  As applicants are being considered they will be contacted by a committee member and interviewed via phone and email.  Final selections will be made by committee vote and the awardees notified by email and phone.

AutoCon 2013 Scholarship Selection Committe

  • Ralph Paglia
  • Chris Saraceno
  • Mike Myers
  • Carrie Hemphill
  • Brian Pasch 

                                                    

Applications for TrueCar AutoCon Scholarships will be accepted starting Monday July 1, 2013 and award selections will begin Monday August 5, 2013.

 

With 10 TrueCar AutoCon Scholarships being awarded, the odds of being selected are probably better than any other similar program in the auto industry… So, do not hesitate to apply and encourage other automotive professionals to do so!  All of us who are stakeholders in the AutoCon event are thrilled with the investment being made by TrueCar to support what we believe is the best event in the auto industry.  The TrueCar sponsorship of AutoCon 2013 and the Full Ride Scholarship Program is appreciated and respected. 

In the past, TrueCar was a company that received an enormous amount of criticism, much of which has been emotionally charged and at times, crossed the boundaries of decency and professional behavior.  Many other companies faced with similar criticism and public ridicule would have released a barrage of legal actions to defend themselves.  TrueCar has consistently taken the high road and responded to their critics with program changes and by sending their senior executives to major auto industry events and meetings. 

 

The TrueCar sponsorship of AutoCon is further proof that this company is led by professionals who want to be valuable contributors to the overall success of the auto industry.

 

On behalf of the AutoCon team and the 10 auto industry professionals who will receive the benefit of these scholarship awards, a sincere thank you to TrueCar is extended.

Apply for a TrueCar AutoCon Scholarship online at http://AutoCon2013.com

    

*PLEASE NOTE: “Full Ride Scholarship” is the brand name for this category of award and is owned by Automotive Media Partners, LLC.  All “Full Ride Scholarships” associated with an AMP promoted event with include a travel stipend that reimburses the scholarship recipient for airfare expense submitted up to a maximum dollar amount. Recipients will also receive lodging for the nights of the conference itself. Any room charges authorized by the scholarship recipient, or incidental expenses are the responsibility of the scholarship recipient. Also included are the conference fees for registering and attending the event, which will usually include scheduled breakfasts and lunches that all event participants receive. It is important for scholarship recipients to understand that ANY expenses outside of airfare to and from the event, hotel lodging and conference registration fees are NOT INCLUDED in our version of a “Full Ride Scholarship”.  Furthermore, we strongly advise all scholarship recipients to travel with a valid major credit card and two forms of government issued ID. Adequate cash should be brought by scholarship recipients to cover meals outside of those scheduled on the conference agenda, local transportation and miscellaneous expenses… After all, you will be in Las Vegas and “Cash-In-Fist” is strongly advised!

   

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Finding Your Style- Commission Sales – Automotive Digital Marketing Professional Community

Finding Your Style – Commission Sales

I cut my teeth selling at an early age selling door to door. From delivering newspapers to Fuller Brush to Cash is Best, for which Ted Turner was a fugitive from the US holding offshore on his yacht in international waters for purporting a pyramid scheme, to selling the original wind up fire and burglar alarms for the home.
After having had my foot caught in the door many times I eventually found my way into Automobile sales. I was so excited to have this opportunity because here were people coming to me looking to buy what I had to sell.
I felt like a kid is a candy store and never looked back. This business allowed me to experience owning my own businesses but I always came back to what I always loved.
When I think of all the advice available to train a good salesperson I think of why salespeople would not all be superstars. After years of being around commissioned sales and salespeople both in and out of the Automotive industry it is apparent to me that the art of selling (and it is an art) is a talent that few people ever master.
I have seen so many techniques that salespeople use to make a sale that works very well for them but would never work for me. As a matter of fact, Some I could not even fathom how they even made so many sales with their “Style” of selling but it worked for them.
What worked for them would never work for me or you.. You can only observe and take those observations and find a “Style” that works for you and make it your own.
This “Style” for the fortunate ones something that comes naturally making selling for them almost effortless. Sales must be looked at as a challenge- the more difficult the sales is to make, the more satisfaction you get from the experience.
That challenge is something that the truly gifted crave, need and look forward to each and every day in every aspect of their lives. It is like a game of chess that is played and each move determines an eventual outcome that a true salesperson is driven to win by reading each move of the opponent before it is even made.
We are all actors on a stage in our journey through this wonderful life but only a few can mold and manipulate the parts they play.
There is and always has been a misunderstanding or maybe even a lack of respect for these truly gifted people. Only a secure, talented and gifted manager who driven to hit that next level knows that he must let these salespeople work their craft using their own “style” to make the relationship rewarding and successful.
These are the type of people that one needs to make a business truly successful. The ones who are in it not just for the money but because they are driven to succeed. Don’t settle for mediocrity. Constantly be looking for the people that will take, maintain and always be looking for that next rush that only these people get from their work.
If you have all the tools and have not found your “Style” as an owner, manager or salesperson unfortunately you probably never will. But if you know all this and never stop looking to surround yourself with these truly talented people you will have your battle plan and will eventually win the war.
As part of its Q4 2012 Email Marketing Quarterly Benchmark Study [download page], Experian Marketing Services has analyzed the best time of the day to send emails.
Experian cautions automotive marketers by pointing out that the data is retrospective rather than controlled.  The study included all industry segments, (US based) with automotive being just one of the multiple segments analyzed (Multi-Channel Retailers).  It is wise to note that logic would dictate that optimal deployment timing will vary by industry, and in the case of automotive, perhaps even by brand. But, despite the naysayers that often want to shove their heads in the sand and ignore all objective data that doesn’t come from themselves, it doesn’t hurt to take a look at the Experian study’s results.
Not surprisingly, at least to me and anyone else who has ever used email marketing at a dealership for any length of time, the Experian study shows somewhat of an inverse relationship between email volume and performance.  Plainly stated, the more email a prospective customer receives during any given time segment, the less likely that your dealership’s email will get opened and read… (less results).

For example, looking at time of day, the study finds that a plurality 40% of emails were deployed between 8AM and 11:59AM, with that range accounting for 42% of transactions. But, the 16.1% unique open rate and 2.4% unique click rate of this time period counted as the lowest of the 6 distinct time periods.

To some extent, that could simply be a function of volume, meaning that it could be harder for email marketers to differentiate themselves in the morning, when consumers are receiving the highest volume of inbound emails.

Interestingly, the transaction rate (.13%) in that morning period also was the lowest of any time range, revenue per email ($0.17) was among the lowest, and average order value was middle of the pack, at $174.

When looking at the time of day that got the smallest share of volume and transactions (2% each) – between 8PM and 11:59PM – the picture changes considerably. During this time period, unique open rate (21.7%), unique click rate (4.2%), transaction rate (0.34%), revenue per email ($0.48), and average order value ($246) for eCommerce businesses submitting data were all considerably higher than during any other time of day. Experian doesn’t offer any suggestions as to why this might be the case, but it could be related to consumers simply being more engaged at that time of the day and more apt to submit an inquiry (lead) or spend money.

 

The Experian report also analyzes performance by day of the week, finding again that the days with the lowest volume of emails (Saturday and Sunday) boasted the best response rates (each with a unique open rate of 17.8% and a unique click rate of 2.9%). Saturday (9% of email volume) also sported the best lead submission (CPA) and transaction rate (0.16%) and revenue per email ($0.20), although average order values lagged for the eCommerce businesses submitting their data.

Regardless of the specifics by industry, region or brand, what the Experian study clearly shows is that when it comes to car dealers using email marketing, timing does effect an email campaign’s performance. The actionable item for car dealers reviewing this information is to start comparing results from your email marketing campaigns using the metrics that Experian has identified, such as open rates, click through rates and engagement rates (inquiries/leads submitted). Identify the best time segments and days of the week for your dealership, your brand and your location to get the optimum results…

Just remember what Digital Ralph has said hundreds of times; “Random is the Opposite of Optimized”.  Don’t let random selection be the means by which you time the deployment of your email campaigns, know the nest days and times to deploy campaigns by their offer type and targeted audience, then put planning in place to ensure that your dealership’s email campaigns are deployed during those optimal day and time segments.

Data Source 1: MarketingCharts.com/most-emails-deployed-in-morning-best-results-se…

Data Source 2: Experian.com/email-marketing-quarterly-benchmark-study-q4-2012

ADM Professional Community members can download the Experian Research report in PDF document format using the following link: 

Email-Marketing-Benchmark-Metrics-Study-Q4-2012.pdf

Can Car Dealers Use Twitter Promoted Tweets To Drive Traffic and Calls? – Automotive Digital Marketing Professional Community.

Twitter Says Promoted Tweets Are Working for Businesses, Including Car Dealerships…

Twitter has released some initial findings from its Nielsen Brand Effect for Twitter beta survey tool, which allows advertisers, including car dealers, their marketing service providers and OEM advertising agencies to measure the impact of their Twitter campaigns on traffic, awareness and branding performance metrics. The results suggest that “Promoted Tweet” campaigns have had their intended effects, driving greater message association, campaign awareness, dealership location association, brand favorability, and purchase intent.

The study cites as validation that across the beta results analyzed, users exposed to a Promoted Tweet impression had an average 22% higher message association than those not exposed to Promoted Tweets. Whether this association can translate into click through and traffic generation remains to be seen.

According to Twitter, the data supports their strategy for automotive advertisers that while Promoted Tweets are priced on a cost-per-engagement basis (similar to Pay Per Click), advertisers can also benefit even when users don’t engage.

In other positive results touted by Twitter, multiple exposure to a Promoted Tweet campaign generated an average 10% lift in make, model or dealership brand favorability versus those exposed to the campaign a single time. Finally, those who engage with a dealership or car company’s Promoted Tweet report a 30% higher brand favorability and 53% higher purchase intent than non-engagers.  Although it seems to me that this could be attributable to a predisposition of those who engaged with such promoted tweets having an affinity for the make, model or dealership in the first place…

One of the most exciting developments is that the completion of the study has triggered Twitter moving the capability out of beta status and opening it up to automotive marketers and advertisers in the US, UK, and Japan.

Promoted Tweet exposure drives stronger message association.

Across all the Twitter beta studies analyzed, exposure to a Promoted Tweet impression drove a 22% average increase in message association compared to users not exposed to Promoted Tweets. This finding demonstrates that, although Promoted Tweets are priced on a cost-per-engagement basis, advertisers don’t only benefit when users engage. Even a Promoted Tweet impression can be valuable for brands.

Brand lift is amplified by multiple exposures to Promoted Tweets.

Multiple exposures (two or three times) to a Promoted Tweet campaign lead to 10% lift, on average, in brand favorability compared to users exposed to the campaign once. This illustrates the value of an always-on Promoted Tweet strategy to continually reach interested users with brand messages.

Engagement with Promoted Tweets translates to higher brand favorability and purchase intent.

Users who engage with a brand’s Promoted Tweet report on average 30% higher brand favorability and 53% higher purchase intent than non-engagers. This study result highlights the value of an engagement on Twitter and the importance of reaching a relevant audience with compelling Tweet copy to further drive Tweet engagement.

How brand surveys on Twitter work 

To create a user experience that feels native to the Twitter platform and increases the likelihood of participation, brand surveys on Twitter are embedded within Tweets. Unlike other major publisher platforms, Twitter does not require a click through to an external site or interrupt the user with a pop-up. Another unique feature of the Twitter brand surveys: advertisers are able to measure and compare survey responses from users who have been exposed across devices – desktop, tablet and smartphone.

More information about how the surveys work can be found here.

Data Source 1: MarketingCharts.com/promoted-tweets-are-working

Data Source 2: Nielsen-Brand-Effect-for-Twitter-How-Promoted-Tweets-impact-brand-m…

Thomas Lesard; ADM Professional Community Dedicated To His Mission

This Automotive Digital Marketing Professional Community and Network is dedicated to Thomas Lesard…

Tom was a giant of a man, who was also my boss from 1982 to 1984 while I worked for the De La Fuente Automotive Group in San Diego, CA.

Mr. Lesard taught me many profound lessons about how to run a car dealership.  My first General Manager position was thrust upon me when I was 25 years old and had been in the car business for two years… Yeah, I know… Crazy, but there were many complicated circumstances that came together to push me into such a re role for a 25 year old automotive retail newbie. There was an auto industry recession at the time and the dealer principal could not find an experienced GM to take over a store in El Centro, CA that sold 30 cars a month… But, he knew he could trust me and as he said at the time, “I know you are smart enough to figure it out when you get to El Centro…”

The dealership official name was “De La Fuente Imports, Inc.” and the DBA was “D’Imports”. The franchises the store had for the Imperial Valley of South Eastern California included Honda, VW, Porsche, Audi and Peugeot… All under one roof. The facility was located next to the Imperial Valley Airport just outside of El Centro, CA.  There was a California Highway Patrol Barracks adjoining the property, which resulted in many interesting escapades involving me, my Porsche 911 demo, various CHP Officers (especially Officer Roland Pritchard of the California Highway Patrol) and a pristine stretch of asphalt that was an abandoned highway running through some of the most God forsaken desert I have ever seen, before or since.

 

Shortly after I was sent to D’Imports as the General Manager, the De La Fuente Family hired Tom Lesard as their Vice president of the Automotive Division with the De La Fuente business empire, which was quite extensive and included banking, real estate development and companies in several other countries including Mexico, Costa Rica, Belgium and the Netherlands.  Tom Lesard was somewhat of a legend because of what he had accomplished with several dealerships he owned in the Apple Valley of California.  What impressed me the most at the time was the way he had pulled new and used vehicle sales from the population centers to his West, which were East of the Los Angeles metro region.

Shortly after coming on board with the De La Fuente organization Tom Lesard flew his highly modified, “hot rod” Twin Turboprop, pressurized cabin Beechcraft Baron private aircraft out to the Imperial Airport. He began repeating this trip about once every ten days. While at the dealership Tom would spend most of the day teaching me how to read financial statements in a manner that was part science and part art… The analysis process and quick ratios Tom taught me in 1982 are still relevant and I continue to use them to this day.  His insights and the many hours he invested in mentoring, teaching and coaching me shaped the skill sets that would drive much of my future success in the car business.

 

In May of 1983, about 9 months after Tom Lesard started flying his plane out from San Diego to review dealership operating results and to coach me, Tom and I were having an early dinner at “The Buick” Restaurant in downtown El Centro. I took advantage of the moment to thank Tom for teaching me so much about running a car dealership  and more importantly about managing people and getting the most out of my team. I asked him how I could ever repay him…

Tom was a giant of a man who had played college football… He scrunched up his NFL Linebacker of a face, leaned his massive shoulders forward to shift his 6′ 4″ towering torso towards me, as if to create a sound block… He started to speak to me so quietly it was almost a whisper… I had to lean towards him to hear what he was saying;

“Ralph, I have a very real and serious commitment I want you to make to me and swear on your life that you will execute… I want you to promise me something, and have absolutely no doubts in your mind that YOU WILL EXECUTE YOUR MISSION!”

He started to raise his voice in the middle and was getting pretty loud on those last 5 words…  At this point he was glaring at me, eyes wide open and it seemed to me he was pissed off… I was already regretting my question.

I responded in the type of shaky, quivering voice a 26 year old produce guy from Buffalo would be expected to have when placed into a role I was sorely unqualified to be in;

“Uhhhh… well… ah, mmmm… ahem… I don’t know what you are going to ask for, but as long as I don’t have to sacrifice one of my baby girls, huh huh… I think I can handle whatever it is…”

Tom did not seem to find any humor in my lame ass attempt to be funny… He went on to say;

“Ralph, I have given you an education about running a car dealership that is worth far beyond what you could possibly understand at this point in your career… I am going to demand that you make me a promise to repay me by passing my gift forward to the future.  After you have made your mark in the car business, you will have the opportunity to take some young person who doesn’t know jack about the car business, under your wings and give to him the same type of coaching and guidance I have given you.  When that opportunity arises, I want you to say a prayer and thank God that you have the opportunity to take the gifts you have received and bestow them on the next generation of leaders that come into this business…”

This whole conversation was one of those truly ethereal moments that I believe most of us have at various points in our lives… I inherently realized exactly what Tom Lesard was talking about… I also felt a sense of spirituality that outweighed my minds attempt to apply logic and reasoning. Tom was looking into my eyes as if he could see into my soul… He maintained his lock on my eyes like some sort of Klingon tractor beam… I could not look away… He went on to say:

“You are the fifth young car guy I have taken a personal interest in… With those two baby girls you have, I am sure you made good use of the $2,000 a month raise I gave you six months ago. The reason I did that is because Roque (the owner) knew you were so eager to prove yourself, that he took advantage of you. He sent you out here from San Diego, to this hell hole of a cockroach infested, insecticide drenched piss poor excuse for a town, at a fraction of the pay that anyone else would insist on getting to do the job you were assigned. And the alternatives to you would have most likely robbed him of much more than they would have been getting paid…  

I don’t tolerate that approach to using people who are eager to please, and never will. It seems like a sin for a multimillionaire to pay his most loyal people that are making him rich, less than what is needed to support their family at a decent standard of living… Despite the fact that your housing is paid for and all your expenses are covered by the dealership…

Don’t you ever forget what I did for you, and promise me that in the future when you see a good man or woman getting screwed by a pay plan that was concocted by somebody a lot shrewder and more treacherous than them, you will do whatever you can to make it right… OK?”

 

I nodded and simply said “Yes sir”… Tom took a sip of his iced tea (no alcohol within ten hours of flying) and went on to explain;

“Here’s the way it works… You are the fifth person I have taken under my wings and mentored.  I am committed to helping five more people become successful before I retire.  I want you to feel an obligation to mentor and coach at least as many people in your career as I have.  You have the advantage of starting at a much younger age.”

“If for any reason i cannot complete my commitment to mentor and coach ten people… If I die prematurely or for any reason cannot complete my mission to pay it forward ten times over… Then YOU must complete my shortfall, on top of your own… You got that? Because that is the way this deal works between you and I, as well as between you and the people you mentor!”

By then, the whole scenario was seeming pretty weird to me… I was thinking religious cults and wondering what i had gotten myself into.  We finished our meal, left the restaurant and I drove Tom back to the airport, watched him climb into the cockpit of his plane while thinking how small his briefcase looked next to this hulking giant of a man.

 

A month later, Tom Lesard asked me to pack my family up, move back to San Diego and take a GSM job at our dealer group’s Kearny Mesa Subaru dealership… Within two months, as he had promised, I was moved back to Kearny Mesa VW where I had started my car sales career less than 3 years earlier.  At the age of 26 I was the GSM of one of the top 5 volume Volkswagen dealerships in America, which was also the #1 sales volume Peugeot dealership in the country.

On a rainy day in November 2003, one of our Finance Managers, a beautiful young woman who had moved to San Diego from Hawaii, came to the sales tower and shared her situation with me… Her father and brother had flown from Honolulu to Los Angeles on their way to visit her, but had missed their commuter flight from LAX to San Diego.  We were discussing her options, such as me lending her an all-wheel drive VW Quantum Syncro, rather than her driving the blue 1969 Chevy Camaro she owned which was terrible on rain slicked roads… Tom Lesard had come down from the corporate office on the second floor and walked up to us as we were talking about the situation.  Tom asked what was going on, and when he heard the Finance Manager tell her story about her father and brother being stuck at LAX he said;

“C’Mon, we’ll go fire up my plane, and be at LAX in less that an hour. We’ll pick up your dad and brother and have you all back here in Kearny Mesa in time for dinner…”

She asked if it was OK to fly in the rain and Tom flashed that big Cheshire cat grin of his, which kind of made his eyes squint shut and flared his nostrils. He described with much pride and bravado how he flies in far worse weather than the benign cloud cover and rainfall with little wind that was coming down at the time.  He went on to tell her about his recent investment in all new avionics, plus that he was instrument certified… I remember thinking to myself “What a great boss to be working for…”

 

Later that evening, I was still on the desk a couple hours after our scheduled closing time, trying to make a late night last deal of the day.  It was a dark and drizzly night, rain coming straight down. The desk phone rang, which seemed odd for that late at night and I answered. It was Nelly Timothy, our corporate controller… She told me that the Kearny Mesa General Aviation Airport security team had called her. She was on the emergency contact list Tom Lesard had filed with the airport.  They called to tell her that Tom had crash landed his plane in  a grassy field between two subdivisions in Tierrasanta, near the airport.

I am not sure I remember accurately what happened right after that… I saw all manner of fire trucks and emergency vehicles flying southbound past the dealership on Highway 163 with lights on and sirens wailing… Phone call after phone call…

 

I told one of my guys to take lock down the showroom and pull the chains because I was going to the site of the crash.  I drove my demo to about 2 blocks from where Tom had crashed, before I ran into the police and fire department cordons… Got out of my car, left it parked in the street, started trotting through people’s backyards to try and get closer to where the emergency vehicles were clustered… I was stopped by a cop and started blabbering that I was looking for my boss’s plane.  He explained that survivors had been taken to Scripps Memorial Hospital, and the coroner was handling the fatalities. I felt sick… I was hyperventilating, sweating profusely, my clothes soaking wet from the combination of rain and perspiration. The cop asked me where my car was, and told me I better move it before it becomes a hazard and causes an accident.

 

I drove back to the dealership where several of us stayed late waiting for word from Nelly, Tom’s wife or anyone on who had survived, who had died, etc.  As it turned out, Tom was the only one of the four who lived long enough to be hospitalized. His plane hit the power lines near the airport when his landing gear was lowered while on approach. Something had malfunctioned with the airport’s Radio Frequency pilot triggered runway lights, so he had been attempting to land without the marker lights on the sides of the runway.  Tom crash landed the plane into an open field between homes near the airport.  According to witnesses that lived in the nearby homes, none of the 4 people in the plane appeared to be injured by the impact from the crash landing. Tom had managed to land the plane, despite the damaged landing gear, then slid a couple hundred yards across the grassy field and through a fence… There were quite a few witnesses from the nearby homes.  They said that as Tom opened the cockpit door and it swung upwards, the plane’s fuel tank in the wing opposite from Tom’s side exploded in a fireball that engulfed the cockpit. He either leaped or was thrown by the force of the explosion outside of the cockpit.

 

Tom had second and third degree burns over 80% of his body.  His lungs were burned as well… He was able to hold a marker and wrote “Yes” when the doctors asked if he would like to be taken off of life support. 

 

The next day, all of us at Kearny Mesa VW endured the painful trauma of watching the wreckage of Tom’s beloved Beechcraft Baron being slowly drive past the dealership on a flatbed tractor trailer truck.  It was surreal… So many of us who worked at the dealership standing in the front of the showroom as the flatbed truck with what was left of Tom’s plane slowly drove past the dealership at no more than 5 MPH.

Here is the FAA Crash Report: BEECH 56TC Air Crash

The air crash with the BEECH 56TC happened on 11/11/1983 at 2238 in SAN DIEGO, CALIFORNIA, USA, causing Destroyed damage to the Airplane. More details on the accident below:

  • Date/Time: 11/11/1983 at 2238 Pacific Standard Time
  • Location: SAN DIEGO, CALIFORNIA, USA
  • Aircraft: Airplane
  • Make/Model: BEECH 56TC
  • Damage: Destroyed
  • Injuries: 4
  • Cause: DURING ARRIVAL, THE PLT WAS CLEARED FOR AN ILS APCH TO RWY 28R. ABOUT 3 MIN LATER, HE COMMENCED A MISSED APCH & REQUESTED ANOTHER ILS TO RWY 28. AT THAT TIME, THE ATC CONTROLLER ADVISED THE PLT THAT THE 5 PRECEDING ACFT HAD MADE ILS APCHS & ALL HAD E(more)

Aircraft details on BEECH 56TC Air Crashed in 11/11/1983 at 2238 in SAN DIEGO, CALIFORNIA, USA, causing Destroyed damage to the Airplane:

  • Aircraft Category: Airplane
  • Manufacturer’s name: BEECH
  • Model: 56TC
  • Series Identifier: 56TC
  • Serial Number: TG50
  • Aircraft Registration Number: N911SC
  • Federal Aviation Registration Type: Part 91: General Aviation
  • Certified Max Gross Weight: 5990
  • Registration Class: U.S. Registered/U.S. Soil
  • Homebuilt? N
  • Total Number of Seats: 4
  • Number of Engines: 2
  • Fixed/Retractable Gear: Retractable
  • Type of Last Inspection: Annual
  • Date of Last Inspection: 8/20/1982
  • Total Airframe Hours: 2200
  • Airframe Hours since Last Inspection: 172
  • ELT Installed? Yes
  • ELT Activated? No
  • Aircraft Owner Name: THOMAS C. LESSARD
  • Aircraft Owner City: HOOD RIVER
  • Operator Same as Owner? Yes 
  • Highest injury: Fatal

TOTAL: 4 Fatal Injuries

Every day for the next few weeks, I found myself looking out the side of the showroom, over towards Kearny Mesa Subaru, where our dead Finance Manager’s dark blue 1969 Chevy Camaro was still parked.  Eventually, I had the locksmith make keys for it and parked it out back behind service.  About 9 months after the plane crash, her mom called from Hawaii and asked if we could sell the Camaro and send her the proceeds.  We figured out a way to get a duplicate title and took care of it.  I seem to recall getting about twice what the car was worth from a wholesaler that always had a big crush on her.  He said something about restoring the Camaro and keeping it.

 

We all moved on… The De La Fuentes brought in Steve Wilhite to replace Tom Lesard. If Steve’s name sounds familiar, it may be because Steve Wilhite went on to become VP of Sales for VW of America, then VP of Marketing at Nissan before becoming Carlos Ghosn’s right hand man as Senior VP of Marketing for Nissan Global in Tokyo. Wilhite then returned to the US a few years ago to take the role of Shief Operating Officer (COO) at Hyundai Motor America, Inc. after Finbarr O’Neill had left to become the CEO of the Reynolds and Reynolds Company, where I was working at the time… Along the way Wilhite has brought me in, or recommended me on several exciting projects as an Automotive Consultant… But, I never forgot Tom Lesard and am still working on the 15 people I must help become successful in the car business to cover my ten and the 5 Tom still owed at the time he crashed his plane.  I keep losing count.

 

So… Now you know why ADM Professional Community is dedicated to Tom Lesard and why I am so motivated to speek, write, coach, guide, mentor, assist, prod and cajole people to do better in their roles within the auto industry…

 

Thank you Tom… 30 Years later, it is still the best assignment I have ever had in the car business!

 

I know that nobody misses Tom as much as his family, but here it is, more than 25 years after he died in a tragic plane crash and I am still making a conscious effort at keeping the promises I made to Tom… Such is the lasting impact of true leaders!

— Ralph Paglia

via Automotive Digital Marketing Professional Community