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March 20, 2024 25 mins
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iHeartMedia Presents CEOs you should know.I'm John Dinkel, Forum Profresident and publisher
of the Baltimore Business Journal and nowfounder and CEO of Dnkle Business Development.
This is Iheartradios CEOs you should know, sponsored by a strategic factory, and
I'm here today with Jamie Darvish,executive vice president and COO of Dark Cars.
Welcome Jamie, thanks for being here. Thank you so much. Glad

to be here. Yeah, lookingforward to our conversation. I thought it'd
be good to just start off bygetting to know the organization a little bit
more and a little bit about yourself. I guess for those who are not
familiar, could you tell us aboutDark Cars? Yeah, absolutely so.
Our company is a family of automobiledealerships located throughout the Washington, DC metropolitan

area. We also have a bunchof stores up in the New York metro
and and down in Florida as well. And U you know, listen,
our organized is not just a regularcar dealership. We are a family of
dealerships that you'll see. You'll seesome great tenure, some fantastic people on

our team throughout all the dealerships anduh and we pride ourselves on really having
top level customer service, and mostof our customers buy cars from us over
and over again. Yeah. Well, being a former Dark Cars consumer,
I can definitely test to the customerservice and stuff like that. But that's

great. I appreciate that. What'syour mission? You know? Our mission
is to make sure we are theleaders in our community and be exemplary with
you know, everything we do tocontribute back to the community that supports our
business. Uh. You know,we we really pride ourselves on, you
know, training and developing quality peopleand giving people an opportunity and just a

fantastic industry. Uh and and really, like I said, just giving to
the community and always doing right bythe customers that take care of us.
Yeah, I've been appreciate you bringingthat up. I know you guys are
known for your philanthropic efforts out inthe community. So talk a little bit
about that. What what do youinvolve yourself then, you know, talk
a little bit about your philanthropy.Oh boy, how much time you get

so interesting enough? I mean thatthat really is that really is the pinnacle
of what we do day to day. And if there's something going on in
the community, Uh, we're there. We we have roughly a little over
two thousand people on our team throughoutall the dealerships. Most of our people

on our team want to participate inactivities in the community, and so that's
why I said, if there's anythingfrom you know, a little league game
to a major sponsorship with the localfire department, Uh, you know,
the the education system. We doa lot with teachers and educator throughout the
different counties and jurisdictions that we dobusiness. And if there's something in the

community, you'll see dark cars.So yeah, that's great. Well,
we appreciate that absolutely. Could youtalk about the trade damage partnership that you
have. I thought that was interestingwhen I saw that on your website.
Yeah, that's uh, you know, part of what we do. We
don't just want to sell someone acar today and say goodbye. We want

to really have a lifetime relationship withevery one of our customers. And you
know, listen, cars are cool, and everybody always wants to get into
the latest and greatest car. Andsomething new comes out, everybody gets excited
and wants to trade into it.So we have many different tools that we
offer to all of our customers tomake it easier to trade their vehicle in

for the you know, the newcar that they may want to get.
Trade Vantage is just simply one ofthose tools that helps the customer get the
most money they possibly ken when thatday comes that they do want to change
the car for a newer It's anoptional program that a lot of our customers
decide to take advantage of, andlike I said, it's just one of

the tools out there to help makethat process easy. Very cool, very
cool. One of the things Ireally wanted to get into a conversation with
you about is the EV market.You know, obviously it's a hot topic
for both consumers and manufacturers. Youknow, what what what's the trend that
you're seeing now in the EV market? And you know, are you seeing

that continue? I mean, youhear a lot of information out there,
and I'm sure some of it's misinformation, But I would just love to spend
a few minutes to talk about thisbecause I know that's something our our listeners
would be interested in. Yeah,you know, the the EV market is
a very interesting market for all ofus. It's it's new to all of

us. First of all, it'swe've never we've never had full battery vehicles
before right where we're all used fromfrom the time we got behind the wheel
for the first time, when whenwe run low on juice, we run
to the gas station, pump,pump the pump, the fuel pump for
a few minutes, and we're backon the road. So that it's new

to us, it's new to theconsumer, it's new to manufacturers. I
think, you know, there isa lot of news out there on both
sides, both in favor and againstelectric vehicles. I think the one thing
that's important to know is the thesegment of our total industry is about three
to five percent of consumers that buynew vehicles that are purchasing a full battery

electric vehicle. You know, ifyou think about that percentage over the last
couple of years, that that hasn'tchanged much. The difference that we're seeing
in the market is that, youknow, if you go back a few
years, there was only one manufacturerin the market that made a full battery
electric vehicle, whereas if you looktoday, you have almost every manufacturer that

does business in the United States isdabbling in that in that segment now,
so there's a lot of competition andall of these automakers are are really kind
of battling with each other over thatsame three to five percent of our industry.
And that's what's interesting too, isthat just three to five percent,
because I that is a shocking percentageto me, because if I think about

like all of the you know,advertising that there out, they're all the
media, all the social media stuff, you would think that the EV market
was closer to like thirty percent orsomething like that. But but and I
know that not including hybrid, that'sall, you know, all just just
battery operated. But that's an interestingstatistic to me because that that does seem

like a small market and you haveall these manufacturers competing against just three to
five percent of the market. Soif you it's interesting you bring that up
because if you if you think aboutwhat would I just explained to you about
that three to five percent that's fullbattery electric. And to your point,
there's other types of vehicles out therethat people may consider an electric vehicle,

and that would be similar to theregular traditional hybrid vehicle like you said,
that has a gas engine and anelectric engine that work together. And then
there's something called the plug in hybrid, which is you can plug the car
in, and it has a battery, and it has an internal combustion engine
as well. But what happens isyou can plug it in, charge the

battery, drive the car, plugit in again, and you theoretically could
drive a plug in hybrid vehicle withoutever putting gas in it as long as
you know, you charge the batteryperiodically. So if you factor those other
types of vehicles in under EVS,then yes, the segment is significantly bigger.
The challenge we have as an industryis when you look at most of

the legislation that's in place with theEPA requirements put under the manufacturers, and
you look at some of the statelegislations put on the manufacturers for cars sold
in their states, they don't givethe kind of credit to those other types
of electric vehicles that they do toa full battery electric which is why we
separate the two to look at themdifferent gotcha, gotcha? Yeah? And

what are what are some of thewould you say, the general misconceptions that
that buyers have when they come intoa dark car dealership and they're interested in,
you know, an electric vehicle.What are what are some of the
misconceptions that you see a lot ofso that that also is a very interesting
question because typically, again going backto that three to five percent of the

consumers that want a battery electric vehicle, they've already made up their mind in
for the most part, in mostcases, they've made up their mind that
they want to buy a battery electricvehicle, and they've worked that into their
lifestyle already, meaning they already havea plan for where they're going to plug
in, how they're going to charge, and how that's going to work in
their life. We run into thereal kind of misperceptions is when a customer

comes into the showroom, which ismany many customers, and they're not really
sure what they want to buy,and when we offer the electric vehicle as
an alternative and it's maybe an optionfor them, they immediately start telling us
what their misperceptions are. And alot of people think a lot of people
think they have to spend thousands ofdollars to put a charger in their house.

A lot of people think that,you know, they go to the
mall and they see these huge,you know, level three chargers that are
ginormous boxes, right, and theythink that they need that in their driveway,
and then you have some people thatdon't have a garage or don't have
a driveway, and they and theythink they can't have a battery electric vehicle
because where would they put their charger. We go through the education process with

those consumers and really we help themfigure out if a battery electric vehicle could
work into their lifestyle. In manycases, it turns out they actually can.
That's interesting. Yeah, that's goodand and wow, what an extra
layer of education for your own salespeopleand management team to have to learn all
that and decipher that in a consumersreal way of life and stuff. So

I imagine that's that's that's an industrychallenge in itself, is the training behind
all that. We we actually tooka handful of the battery electric vehicles and
had all of our staff drive themfor a period of time so they could
they could experience it. Right,that's cool. That's really cool. But
what thank you? I appreciate that. That's really true. I could talk

to another hour about that. Butwhat talk to us about like the how
the economy and even inflation has impactedyou know, trucking car sales over the
past you know, year or two. Yeah, it's it definitely is on
the forefront of most consumers' minds rightnow when they're they're making the decision.

You know, I think if weback up a little bit further than the
last couple of years, if youlook prior to when the pandemic started,
at the beginning of twenty twenty,our industry was doing roughly seventeen to eighteen
million new vehicles a year in theUnited States. When yeah went in the
height of the pandemic, we fellto around almost ten million. Wow.

So that's a lot of customers thatyou know, kind of decided at that
time not to purchase a car,and well, that's okay, and they
made that conscious decision, and alot of that was really due to availability,
because the manufacturers didn't have any carsavailable. What happened was the cars
they were driving were aging. Sothe real challenge in the market today is

that the average age of a caron the road in the United States is
older than it's ever been. It'sover thars old. Yeah, So the
consumers that decided not to purchase duringthe vehicles show inventory shortages and all during
the pandemic, they're now returning themarket more so because they kind of have
to because the car they have needto be replaced. So so really what

we're seeing with with the status ofthe economy today and where interest rates are
and all, it does affect themonthly payment that a customer can can afford.
So we're seeing a lot more customerslooking towards leasing. Manufacturers are getting
back into leasing, which is makingthe payments a lot more affordable for customers.
We're seeing a resurgence of the preowned market. A lot of customers

are deciding maybe to go to apre owned vehicle that is, you know,
save a few dollars and you know, and go that route. And
then we are seeing customers that areadopting the new technologies, whether it's a
plug in hybrid or a traditional hybridvehicle or a battery electric vehicle because then
they get savings on their fuel costsevery month. So but yeah, definitely

is it consideration. And we're startingto see a little bit more uh uh
effort from the manufacturers to put subsidizedfinancing out there. You see the lower
financial a zero percent, two pointnine percent, that kind of stuff.
So that's been helpful. So butbut with with that, with that,
uh that number of customers over thelast three years, since the high of

the pandemic that could not purchase acar or chose not to purchase a car.
They're all returning to the market now, which is uh, you know,
which is great, but we're seeingthis little shift in what they're buying.
Yeah, gotcha. I appreciate yousharing that, all right. I
want to kind of switch gears alittle bit. I love talking about leadership
on the show and what talking aboutthe describe your leadership style. Yeah,

so I I consider myself a teacher, you know, not not really the
boss. I mean, my mymy passion is really training and development,
you know. I I I reallyenjoy bringing people in that that really kind
of maybe don't even know much aboutthe automobile business, but maybe have just

a love for cars, or alove for communicating with people, a love
for business, and just some kindof passion that that might, you know,
get them interested in our industry.And then once they come in in
one of our operations, my jobis to teach them, and my job
is to help them see how theycan make a lifetime career out of our
out of our business, and notjust in our industry, but in our

organization. And one of the biggestthings that you know, my brother and
I both pride ourselves on in owningthis company is that we continue to grow
and you know, we continue toexpand and and we're able to do that
because of the great people that arein our organization. But we feel an
obligation to these people in our organizationto continue to grow, to provide a

place for them to spread their wingsand grow and do more. And the
real winner in this whole process,although the individual employee gets to have one
heck of a career and a greatlife, but our consumers really benefit,
you know, the most out ofit because they get to deal with the
same people when they come back tobuy their next car. They get to

have the same familiar faces there ifGod forbid, they have a problem with
their car during the ownership period atany time. And that's why I said
at the beginning, it's more likea family with us, and we really
look at our team members and everyone of our customers as a family member.
Yeah, that's great. I lovethat the training and development pieces such
a it's such a huge piece ofleadership, I think too, because you

know, that is giving people opportunityto grow personally and professionally, and obviously
that then keeps people there. Soemployee engagement is up and their time,
but the organization goes up. AndI imagine you know, in your business,
you know, having let's just say, you know, a sales person
that's been with the organization a longtime that sees all the trends and and

uh, they're seeing returning customers,you know, you know, three or
four years they want to trade theircar and they go back to the same
person. And I think there's alot of things there that you know,
if you have that training and development, it just nurtures people and engages them
more and they're, like you said, ultimately the benefit is the customer.
So I love that. That's great. Yeah, and it's it's great when

we start getting second generation and eventhough a few third generation uh you know,
team members that parents worked with us. So yeah, it's awesome.
That's awesome. I love that,you know, going back to like the
pandemic, I know it's it's thegeneral threats over but we're still obviously you
know, uh, the effects ofit have have been I think ingrained in

US probably for at least at leastmy lifetime. What did you learn about
kind of managing and leadership during thattime? You know, that's a that's
a that's a very good, goodquestion, you know, And I would
tell you not only I learned,I think our team learned too. And
I'll tell you just a story when, uh, when the pandemic hit.

In the height of the pandemic,and you know, basically most businesses we
were shut down, and even theones that were essential, and we were
thankfully eventually named essential and we wereallowed to open, but not not under
the way we normally opened. Wewere on skeleton crews and we've just all
different kinds of modified schedules and businessoperations. You know, my brother and
I made a conscious decision to makesure we protected the employment and the income

of all our employees and and sowe basically had our entire staff that was
getting you know, compensated and gettingyou know, making sure we were taking
care of them even though there wasno business coming in the door. And
one of one of the things thatwe decided to do was how can we
help the community right now with allthis chaos going on with the pandemic.

And we realized one of the biggestchallenges was at the hospitals, and you
had the healthcare workers that they hadto go to work, and we were
all worried about what was happening withthe pandemic and what was going to happen
to us. These people put theiruniform on and went to the hospital and
we're dealing with this, right.So what we decided do. We reached

out to the hospital and said,listen, is there a way we could
come there in the garage of thehospital for all of the staff and doctors,
nurses and whoever works in the hospitaland sanitize their cars while they're at
work. Go wow, you know. So And while we started with a
small team where we got a handfulof our employees together that wanted to wanted

to do this, you know whathappened was we get to the first hospital
and we started doing the sanitizations,and I'm not kidding with you, the
truckloads of other team members from alldifferent departments and stores started showing up with
uh you know, we had thesespace suits to make sure everybody was protected,
but they all started showing up andbecause they all wanted to help.

Uh, that's great, that's awesome. Yeah. So I think that when
you ask about you know, it'sone of the biggest things that that we
learn. We learned a lot ofefficiencies in business, we learned a lot
of you know, different logistic thingsand what have you, but we really
learn that the hearts of our teammembers are are are bigger than any of
us ever really even imagine. Andand we just haven't stopped. We just

keep doing things in the community andand our and when if we miss an
event, you know that we're it'scoming up down the road that for some
reason we're not scheduled to be at. Someone on our team comes right to
our team and says, hey,we got to be there, and we
we activate quick. Yeah that's agreat story, Jammy. I appreciate you
sharing that. I love that definitely. What uh, what gets you excited

about the future of dark Cars?Wow? The first thing is I love
cars, so I love to seein the new tech anology. Yeah,
it's awesome. And I'll tell youthis is all I've done my whole life.
And again, kind of along thesame lines that we've been talking about.
What I'm excited about is that people. I have so many people on

our team that came in literally knowingnothing about the car business. That we've
trained, you know, everything beginningto end. And this this whole part
of the team is now taking oversignificant parts of our operation and just really
growing and and doing so great,and customers love them and they're they're building
their own teams now within their partsof the operation. And seeing that success

of people paying it forward, it'sit's exciting. And seeing what's coming down
the road is it's even more excitingjust to think about. Yeah, that's
great to hear. Well And conversely, what keeps you up at night?
Hey, well, I'll tell youthat that the cars again along in line
with the cars, the cars aregetting so much more technologically advanced. And

what I really am focused on forthe future is technicians. And you know,
there's a big misperception in the marketof you know, what a technician
does, and it's it's not amechanic what most people think of from from
sixty years ago. I mean thesea car today is mostly software driven,

you know. And and and unfortunatelyyou don't really run into a whole lot
of young people in school today thatthat that don't say they want to be
a social media influencer and make amillion dollars or they or they want to
be a lawyer or doctor. Weneed more people to say I want to

be a technician, and so wewe do a lot of work with the
local schools and trade associations and everythingto really get into the education system where
young people are still trying to decidewhat they want to do for in their
life and explain to them the benefitsthat that that they can have and being

a technician, what they can learnand and how it's really using computers and
technology to really work on these cars, you know, and and the income
potential and the lifestyle they can havefor doing it. Yeah, that's what
I was about to mention too.It's lucrative to be a technician in the
industry now and you're even was backin the day. But like you said,

my understanding whatever read is gosh,yeah, it's I mean, you
may as well be in technology,you know, like because it's so the
you know, the cars are soadvanced these days. So yeah, and
I think that's another issue I talkwe talked about a lot on the show,
is you know, is the Idon't want to say the trades,

but like you know, other avenuesto work other than you know, yeah,
going into trying to be an influenceror going into professional services or financing
and all that kind of stuff.There's so much opportunity out there, you
know, as a technician or workingin the trades that like it's almost an

education process, I think with theparents, not only the kids, but
so that the parents understand that theseare great opportunities for your kids. That
are just I mean, you know, and then there's I don't Unfortunately,
it doesn't seem like there's enough educationout there to you know, influence these
kids that there's these opportunities there.It certainly isn't that. You're right,

And when we do open houses andthe dealerships with some of the local schools,
we actually invite the parents to comewith the students so that they can
see it as well and meet allof us. And and you know,
I'll tell you if you if youreally think about it, I always tell
people this, Imagine if you wokeup tomorrow morning and nobody's car in the
entire country start right, think ofthe problems we'd have, right, It'd

be worse than any pandemic you couldimagine. Right, So this is this
is the even the job security youhave with that. If you know how
to how to work on a carand fix a car, your your your
gold for the rest of your life. Yeah, definitely. Well that's great,
that's great. Well kind of wrapthings up. Is there anything else
you'd like our listeners to know aboutyou and Dark Cars? Uh? Well,

I mean again same. We're growing, and we are we are a
part of the community. We knowwhere we came from, our community where
I'm born and raised in the Washingtonmetropolitan area, and and we're going to
continue to give back and we're goingto grow. And if anybody out there
is really looking for a career andsomething you can do to really make a

great life and have a lot offun and take care of a lot of
people, then reach out to usand join us. And we're growing and
we're a great place to be.That's great. And how could our listeners
find more information about about you andDark Cars? So pretty much any of
the social media platforms Facebook, Instagram, x. You can also go right

on our website Dark cars dot com. You can learn a lot about us.
We have community pages and setups onall those different media sources and or
you know, just just call us. You can call right into one eight
hundred Dark Cars and talk to us. Awesome. Well, well, thank
you so much, Jamie. Itwas great talking with you. I really
appreciate your time being on the showand congrats on your success and looking forward

to seeing how things grow. Sothank you so much, appreciate it.
Yeah, this has been iHeartMedia CEOs. You should know.
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