2012 Auto Dealer of the Year: Bill Perkins Automotive Group

Full Throttle

While the 63-year-old Perkins doesn’t expect to retire anytime soon, a succession plan is in place. His 24-year-old son, Monte, currently general manager for the company’s Merollis Chevrolet location in Eastpointe, Michigan, is being groomed as his successor. “It took a while for me to realize that my son was seriously considering this business. When he went to college, that’s when I realized he was serious,” Perkins says. “So what I had to do was extend my plan. By the time I’m 67, 68 years old, that’s when I will start looking at slowing down considerably.”

After graduating from Northwood University in 2010 with a degree in automotive marketing management, the younger Perkins went through the National Auto Dealer Association’s Dealer Development Academy, a yearlong program. “I pretty much grew up in the car business,” says Monte. “My father started me off pulling weeds and washing cars. As soon as I got my driver’s license I became a porter. I would help on dealer trades and driving the parts truck.” While in college, Monte interned at an automotive group in North Carolina, and upon graduating he worked in Perkins Automotive Group’s Internet department.

As a general manager, Monte oversees the Merollis dealership, but he still meets regularly with his father, understanding that he has a lot to learn from the elder Perkins. “When we’re in a meeting, something will come up, and you get an idea in your head–you have a problem that you’re trying to solve, and I’m going at it just from one angle. He’ll always come up with a completely different angle that I didn’t even see,” says Monte. “That’s something that he’s teaching me. You have to go at it from different angles sometimes. That’s really the biggest thing that I can learn from him–the way he handles himself and the way he handles situations.”

Looking ahead the Perkins team is optimistic, believing that the auto industry will continue to mend. But one lesson that’s been learned over the last half-decade is that nothing is guaranteed. “It’s ever changing,” says Monte. “You have to keep an eye on what’s going on. You can’t be left behind. I think that, for a moment there, Detroit got left behind in the innovation. I think we’ve got to keep our eye on what’s important, and that’s what the customers are driving.”

With the 2012 North American International Auto Show over and done with, Perkins will refocus on doing what he does best: selling cars and positioning the business to thrive, no matter how bumpy the road may be.