Careers at Sonic Automotive
Sonic Automotive’s mission is to create an automotive retail experience designed around its guests, for its guests.
Sonic Automotive is an automotive retailer. The firm operates two reportable business segments:
- Franchised Dealerships – Comprised of retail automotive franchises that sell new vehicles and buy and sell used vehicles, replacement parts and vehicle repair and maintenance services, and finance and insurance products.
- EchoPark – Comprised of stand-alone specialty retail locations that provide customers an opportunity to search, buy, service, finance, and sell pre-owned vehicles.
Bruton Smith fell in love with cars at a young age. At a certain point he began building and racing vehicles in his parent’s garage. He later began selling cars in his front yard. His passion for everything related to automobiles encouraged him to launch an enterprise in the industry. So in 1997 he founded Sonic Automotive, a retailer that allowed customers to buy and sell vehicles.
Based in Charlotte, North Carolina, the company became a huge success in a short period of time – growing to 20 stores with hundreds of employees in a few years, and representing 15 brands. It differentiated itself in a number of ways – for example, customers could select their vehicles online first, and prices were based on trends in the immediate community. It eventually became public.
Business model of Sonic Automotive
Sonic has a mass market business model, with no significant differentiation between customer segments. The company targets its offerings at anyone who wants to buy or sell a car.
Sonic offers three primary value propositions: accessibility, convenience, and brand/status.
The company creates accessibility by providing a wide variety of options. Its dealerships offers a comprehensive range of services, including sales of used and new cars and light trucks; sales of replacement parts; vehicle maintenance, warranty, paint and collision repair services, and arrangement of extended warranty contracts; and financing and insurance.
The company offers convenience by making life simpler for customers, as follows:
Online Research – Consumers shopping for cars on Sonic’s website can create an account that they can use to save cars of interest and set up e-mail alerts for new offers, price changes, and vehicle sales. Also, if they do not see a particular vehicle of interest, they can fill out a form to receive a notification when a matching car comes in stock.
In-Store Purchases – Consumers shopping for cars at any of Sonic’s locations in Charlotte, North Carolina receive the Sonic Guest Experience. They are assigned a dedicated Experience Guide who walks them through the entire shopping and buying process. The Guide carries an iPad so that any information necessary for the customer is immediately available. The entire experience can go by in as quickly as an hour. The company plans to roll out the program to other locations.
Customers shopping at any of Sonic’s locations can save time thanks to its pricing method. It assigns each of its vehicles a “Sonic Price“, which is determined based on fair market value (the selling price of similar vehicles in the community). This helps avoid the time-consuming negotiation process.
In-Store Sales – Consumers seeking to sell their vehicles at one of Sonic’s locations can have it undergo a quick and interactive appraisal (utilizing advanced technological resources) so they can determine its actual market value. If all goes smoothly they can leave with a check in hand the same day. They do not need to purchase a car in order to sell theirs. If they desire, they can also complete a preliminary appraisal on the company’s website by providing information about the vehicle.
The company has established a strong brand due to its success. It is one of the largest automotive retailers in the U.S. in terms of total revenues. It operates more than 114 dealerships across 14 states and 25 major metropolitan markets. It possesses over 30,000 new and pre-owned vehicles representing 25 automotive brands, with the majority of its dealerships being import and luxury brands. Lastly, it is a Fortune 500 company and a member of the Russell 2000 Index.
Sonic’s main channel is its direct sales team. It also sells its vehicles through a set of authorized and preferred vendors. The company promotes its offering through its website and social media pages.
Sonic’s customer relationship is primarily of a personal assistance nature. The company’s employees give customers one-on-one guidance when they visit its dealerships to make a purchase or sale. That said, there is a self-service component in that customers can browse vehicles online first.
Sonic’s business model entails designing, developing, and delivering its services for customers.
Sonic’s key partners are the authorized and preferred vendors that promote and sell its vehicles in order to extend its reach.
Sonic’s main resources are its physical resources, which primarily include its network of 144 dealerships and 18 collision centers across 14 states and 24 metropolitan markets. It also depends on human resources in the form of its dealership representatives who assist visitors.
Sonic has a value-driven structure, aiming to provide a premium proposition through significant personal service and frequent service enhancements. Its biggest cost driver is cost of sales, a variable cost. Other major drivers are in the areas of sales/marketing and administration, both fixed costs.
Sonic has two revenue streams: revenues it generates from the sales of its vehicles and related services to customers.
info: O. Bruton Smith previously held several leadership roles at Sonic Automotive, including Chairman and CEO. He also acted as Executive Chairman and Director of Speedway Motorsports, and is currently the President of Atlanta Motor Speedway.
info: B. Scott Smith previously held several leadership roles at Sonic Automotive, including Vice Chairman, Chief Strategic Officer, and Chief Operating Officer. He has more than 26 years of experience in the automobile dealership industry.
info: Heath R. Byrd previously held many leadership roles at Sonic Automotive, including VP and Chief Information Officer. He also previously served as President, Chief Operating Officer, Chief Financial Officer, and Chief Information Officer of HR America.
info: Jeff Dyke previously held several leadership roles at Sonic Automotive, including Division Chief Operating Officer - Southeast Division, Division Vice President - Eastern Division, and Vice President of Retail Strategy. He also held many managerial roles at AutoNation.
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