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November 11, 2006

Interview with Beth Melamed - Admiral Nissan

Beth_melamed_picture Ask Patty always like to hear about the dealership perspective, especially when it's owned by a woman! We sat down with Beth Melamed, the principal and managing partner of Admiral Nissan in New Jersey and J.D. Byrider in Pennsylvania.

ASK PATTY: What are the challenges for you as a woman working in the automotive industry?
Beth: Most of the challenges I encounter as a car dealer would be the same for either a man or a woman. But in my career there have been occasions, when I first started working with some individuals, that I’ve felt I wasn’t being taken as seriously as my male counterparts. This is not something I concern myself with. I simply do my job and hope that my success will speak for itself.  I started in the auto industry in the ‘70s as a salesperson. At that time a woman working in any capacity other than a clerical position was unique, and I considered it an advantage. My customers would remember me, because they had never had a woman sell them a car before, and they seemed to feel safer with me. A tougher place to break in was at the wholesale auto auctions. When I first started buying used cars at the auctions I had to push for recognition—the auctioneers were not accustomed to female buyers. I would have a hard time getting their attention when bidding. But once the auctioneers got to know me I was treated as any other bidder.  Today woman are working in every capacity in the industry.  Though it is still a male-dominated industry the doors are open to woman, and more and more woman are walking through.

ASK PATTY: Can you tell me a little bit about your jobs at your dealerships?
Beth: I am the principal and managing partner of Admiral Nissan, a new car franchise in Pleasantville, NJ; Admiral Auto Body in Mays Landing,  New Jersey; and J.D. Byrider in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. Byrider is the oldest and largest used car franchise network in the nation. It is my job to oversee all operations of my facilities.  A large part of my focus is on developing processes that will ensure the highest level of customer service. Our customers have many choices of where to buy, or service their vehicle.  I work hard to make my organizations stand out as a superior place to do business.

Girlsmilingdriving1783225 ASK PATTY: What made you decide to work in the automotive industry?
Beth: I grew up as the daughter of a car dealer.  My father started with a used car lot in the ‘50s and then began acquiring new car dealerships. As a child I would go to work with him on Saturdays, and that began to spark my fascination with the car business. I went to college to become a teacher, but I began working as a car salesperson after graduation.  I was hooked!  I loved the challenge of selling, and the contact with the customers. Plus, I found the people who worked in the industry to be fun and interesting characters, and I loved working with them. What’s more, as a woman I felt that in my own small way I could affect a change in the negative reputation the auto industry had over its treatment of woman. Over the years I have worked at dealerships in Louisiana, Florida, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania. 

ASK PATTY: What is some advice you would give a young woman who was interested in a career in the automotive industry?
Beth: The automobile industry is a sophisticated and diverse industry.  There are opportunities for individuals with varying skills and training.  As in any industry that has been predominantly male, there may be times when a woman may need to work smarter than her male peers.  Be professional and focused and you will succeed.  In my organization I have had women working in every capacity—sales, service technicians, service managers, service writers, business managers, accountants, underwriters, IT professionals, and more.  If you have an interest in the automotive industries, follow your interest and you will find excellent career opportunities.

ASK PATTY: What if any are the big changes you are seeing today in how vehicles are being marketed to women?
Beth: The automobile industry has opened its eyes to the power of women in the marketplace.  Statistics show that 60 percent of automobile buyers are women. In addition, women in households tend to be the key decision-makers in purchases such as cars. So now a great deal of the focus in auto marketing is geared toward women, and they are taken very seriously.  The days of woman being ignored or minimized by the auto industry are over.  This is just one of the ways in which the industry is evolving every year.

Dv2051005_2 ASK PATTY: What is one piece of “good” advice you would give women before they buy a new vehicle?
Beth: Do your research and don’t make an emotional purchase. Think in practical terms. A good source of information, including comparative shopping and promotions, is the Internet.  With your research in hand, when you go to the dealership you’ll have a clear understanding of what you are looking for and the market value of that vehicle.

ASK PATTY: What is it like to be a woman working in the BHPH market?
Beth: Many of the customers who come to our J.D Byrider store are woman who, due to circumstances in their lives, have credit challenges.  These circumstances may be a divorce or job loss due to family responsibilities. As a woman I am able to empathize with them, and it’s rewarding to be able to help them get back on their feet and on their way to repairing their credit. J.D. Byrider is not a typical buy-here-pay-here operator. The business model is very much focused on customer service. For instance, we sit down and show our customers how to determine what car payment their income will allow. We don’t want customers in cars they can’t afford. They are then able to choose a quality vehicle that fits their budget, allowing them to meet their loan obligations. And we report that repayment performance to all the major credit bureaus, which helps to rebuild the customer’s credit rating. Women who find themselves in tough circumstances need and appreciate this service.  Sometimes, a few years after buying a car from us, they come back to show us the new car they were able to buy. They want to thank us for our support during tougher times—the support that made it all possible. I’m always thrilled to see that happen for other women.

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