For many people, a summer job is a fleeting experience lacking career prospects. Yet for Jessica Stahl, summers spent parking and washing cars at the family auto dealership became a catalyst that propelled her into the automotive industry as a professional and kept her there until she owned her own dealership.

“I started there at 16,” she says. “I did a little bit of everything. I worked as a lot person, then as a cashier, a title clerk, in business development, customer service, human resources and payroll. One summer, I worked in the service department. I also learned sales and finance.”

Her positive summertime experiences drove Stahl toward a full-time role at Bob Johnson Chevrolet, owned by her father, Gary Stahl, before shifting her to a position as district manager of sales and service at General Motors.

“Working for the GM factory put me in so many stores, which was huge in preparing me for my next step,” she says.

After attending the National Auto Dealers Association Academy in 2021 and 2022, Stahl bought a dealership.

In October, at age 33, Stahl took the wheel at Moyle Chevrolet in Honeoye Falls, N.Y., a role she prepared for for years. Stahl is now recognized as one of the youngest female GM dealers in the Northeast, and her dealership is counted among the fewer than 10% of GM dealerships that are female-owned.

Owning a dealership as a woman is no big deal as far as Stahl is concerned. “It’s only a challenge if you make it a challenge. I think it’s a pretty cool thing, leading the way for other women. I like the idea of forging my own path for myself and other women.”

Those distinctions aside, Stahl plans to make a name for herself and her dealership by treating employees like family and offering good customer experience.

Why Automotive Retail?

As an avid softball player growing up, Stahl found herself drawn to the thrill of competition and being part of a team. Automotive retail, she says, ticks both those boxes.

“It’s competitive. It’s always changing. And it’s always challenging. Like a game, it is fun and fast-paced.”

Stahl acknowledges that being in the car business requires drive and a strong work ethic. If you have those qualities, she says she believes automotive retail will hook you.

“My father and I always joke that once you are in the auto retail business, you will never leave,” she says. “I ventured away from it to work in the GM factory, but the dealership environment was it for me.”

Stahl says automotive retail is a good career choice, particularly for women. “Women can do anything they put their minds to as long as they show up and work hard. The automotive business is a great industry, offering a wonderful way to set yourself up for a good life. It’s a pretty stable career, despite the industry struggles right now.”

Why Moyle Chevrolet?

Moyle Chevrolet was established in 1982. Stahl says it built a reputation over the years for excellence, honesty and integrity, and that attracted her to the dealership, which she renamed Jessica Chevrolet.

“I liked that it’s a smaller store with a lot of opportunity,” she says. “The building is beautiful, and the community was a good fit. I’ve always had an affinity for small stores. A smaller store allows me to be highly attentive to customer service, which I love. A larger store has a harder time with that because they serve so many people and are so busy. In a small store, we can love on everyone that walks through the front door.”  

Honeoye Falls is a village within the town of Mendon in Monroe County. The village, population 2,706, includes a small waterfall on Honeoye Creek, which flows through the village and gives it its name. The combination evoked a small-town feeling that Stahl found appealing.

“I feel blessed to be running a dealership in this great community. We already have an impeccable sales department and an amazing staff that delivers good, old-fashioned customer service.”

Stahl retained the 19-member staff because of its strong skill set, which made changes unnecessary. “I’ve been in a lot of different stores, and when I entered this one, it didn’t seem like I was coming into a store with a lot of employee drama or headaches. It’s a tight-knit group,” she says. “The store has a true family atmosphere, where everyone seems like really good people. I thought this is the right spot, the right time, and the right store for me.”

Full Speed Ahead

Stahl hit the ground running, improving the store after closing on it in late September. Her goal, she says, is to merge existing processes with new ways of buying a vehicle.

The first step, she says, is getting involved with the community. “Being part of the community is an important part of running an auto dealership,” she says. “We need to take care of everyone we can in the store and in the community.”

The next step was to refine the customer experience by moving away from transactional experiences. She cites a popular coffee chain as an example of a business she believes has become too transactional.

“This company asks you to tip them before they’ve even made your drink. You’ve only ordered it from their app at that point,” she says. “It is so different from the way things used to be, and I think people miss that friendly, customer service feel.”

Car buyers especially seek more than just transactional experiences, she says. “This is the second largest purchase after their home. Customers have to feel like someone cares about them when they make this decision.”

The first step toward improving the customer experience is taking care of employees, she adds. “When we treat employees right, they will treat customers well.”

She says Jessica Chevrolet strives to keep management staff closely involved with customers and employees alike. “No one hides in a secret office. We are all right here. We talk to everyone in a super-open and accessible way,” she says. “Every employee knows they can reach out to me for help with anything they need, and I will do my best to support them.”

Her background working for her father and GM support her with that.

“I’ve worked in so many stores and have held so many positions,” she says. “I know how each position functions. It helps me understand the problems that come up between sales clerks and sales managers, for example, because I held both of those positions. I’m able to get people to meet in the middle because I understand where each party is coming from.”

Stahl says her NADA training will also help drive change. “That experience gave me the opportunity to learn so much about how dealerships operate and dive deep into specific departments.”

Her next move involved addressing processes and systems that required fine-tuning. Stahl’s efforts there included upgrading phones and computer systems, improving the website, and adding digital advertising to get as much information to customers as possible before they set foot in the store.

“I’ve been in a lot of stores, so I’m taking the good and leaving the bad,” she says. “The biggest thing is to have processes in place and hold people accountable to them so they can offer great customer service.”

Stahl says she also intends to increase inventory to improve customer service for vehicle shoppers, including a push into electric vehicles. EVs are charging ahead, but she adds that manufacturers now understand dealers need continued access to internal-combustion-engine vehicles so they can help all customers.  

“There is an exciting future with electric vehicles,” she says. “But dealers need to get ready. They need to add charging stations, train employees, and get technicians certified. It’s going to be important to get the dealership prepared and salespeople ready to sell EVs.”

Navigating Industry Change

Stahl recognizes the auto retail industry is in a sea of chaos where charting her course may be challenging. But she says she’s navigated challenges.

“Having a dad in the business and growing up in it, we’ve been through a lot of these things before,” she says. “Inventory challenges, high interest rates, all of them.”

She says the factories are on the dealers' side and offer a lot of support, painting a promising future for the entire industry. “They listen to dealers, and they hear our problems, and they will work with us through them,” she says. “They are continually changing to make things easier for us and, in turn, easier for the customer. Because that’s what’s most important.”


Ronnie Wendt is an editor at F&I and Showroom.

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