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Character Development

Chris ‘Captain Credit’ Cochran struck gold for Haddad Dealerships with a social media promotion that grew into a standalone special finance department.

August 2011, F&I and Showroom - Feature

by Tariq Kamal

The “Captain Credit” Facebook page has garnered 349 friends since Haddad Dealerships’ finance director, Chris Cochran, launched it in 2008.
The “Captain Credit” Facebook page has garnered 349 friends since Haddad Dealerships’ finance director, Chris Cochran, launched it in 2008.

With only six years in the business, you might suspect that Chris Cochran’s rapid ascent from sales associate to finance director for all three stores in the Pittsfield, Mass.-based Haddad Dealerships family was a matter of good luck, a bad economy or both. Cochran won’t deny that timing played a part, but most of his success is the result of hard work and one very good idea.

It almost didn’t happen. A Pittsfield native, Cochran first sold cars for owner George Haddad before starting college in 2000. After graduating, he left New England to study chiropractic medicine at a school in Iowa. Unfortunately, funds ran out before he could complete his degree, and he soon found himself back in his hometown.

Cochran decided to get back into the car business. He first worked at a local used-car lot, then put in a call to Haddad when he heard they were hiring. He was hired as an F&I manager at Haddad Toyota in August 2006 before being promoted to general sales manager at the Subaru store. And when the opportunity came to direct F&I for all three dealerships from the Toyota franchise, Cochran didn’t hesitate.

“I wanted to be in the finance department,” he says. “F&I is fast-paced. It requires cognitive thinking.”

Trial By Fire

The initial success of “Captain Credit” was enough to convince management to create a separate ad budget and, in the coming months, a separate lot for subprime sales.
The initial success of “Captain Credit” was enough to convince management to create a separate ad budget and, in the coming months, a separate lot for subprime sales.

Cochran moved into the F&I office in the summer of 2007, just months before the credit crisis would derail the industry. A year earlier, Haddad was booking used units at 150 percent loan to value. By 2008, they were lucky to still be in business. Cochran says the key to survival was the dealer group’s three principal lenders: Toyota Motor Credit, Hyundai Motor Finance and a local credit union.

“They saw us through,” Cochran says. “But even working in the finance office, my income was capped on others’ motivations.”

He felt that Haddad was missing out by not marketing to the subprime segment. As the economic picture worsened, he decided to take matters into his own hands. With no marketing budget to work with, Cochran turned to Facebook.

He created a page around a cartoon superhero he named “Captain Credit.” His primary superpower? Getting subprime customers approved for loans. “It was quick,” Cochran says. “Suddenly, we were selling four or five cars a month because of Captain Credit.”

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