Priority Automotive Dealer Spotlight

Happy 2016! SpinCar is kicking off the new year with another Dealer Spotlight, giving you insight into how industry leaders run their dealerships. This time around we were lucky enough to speak with Matthew Pennell, the Business Development Manager of a great group of dealerships: Priority Automotive. Based in Virginia, Priority Automotive was founded in 1999 when president Dennis Ellmer bought his first dealership. There are now 18 stores across Virginia under the Priority name with about 2700 employees total.

Matthew Pennell has a 13 year track record of success working in automotive in various roles including sales, finance, BDC, Used Car Manager, and New Car Manager. Pennell even spent several years working at a classic car store, RK Motors in Charlotte, NC. He started at Priority four years ago as a BDC/Sales Manager at their Honda store in Huntersville until transitioning to his current role at the corporate level. Pennell uses this in-store experience to add value on the corporate side by approaching topics and presenting data to General Managers from a sales-based perspective.

I think engagement is significantly better with SpinCar than without and it distinguishes us from our competition


-Matthew Pennell, Business Development Manager, Priority Automotive Group

Working with 18 dealerships across ten different brands can be challenging, and it has become clear to Mr. Pennell that no single solution is necessarily ideal for every store with their different identities and customer bases. Ultimately, the General Manager at each location makes decisions for their own store, but vendors undergo a rigorous vetting process by Matthew before a General Manager is presented with a solution. That’s one reason we at SpinCar are proud to be in so many Priority stores: every interaction with a SpinCar 360° WalkAround is as unique as the individual visiting the site. Priority Auto tailors all of their online processes to the brand and market that each store serves to bring the right customers to each location.

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One initiative the group does use at all of their stores is the “Priorities for Life” program. Every new Priority vehicle comes with a lifetime engine guarantee, no-cost oil and filter changes, genuine manufacturer’s parts guarantee, free state inspection and free towing to a Priority store for service. All guaranteed for the life of the vehicle. These guarantees have solidified Priority’s position in their market and helped maintain their top-ranking customer retention among their brands.

Priority Automotive’s commitment to serving their community doesn’t end with the vehicles they sell. This April will be their 3rd year running the Priority Charity Bowl, an annual charity football game with local celebrities and sponsors. Priority Automotive and other sponsors take over a local college stadium with a charity flag football game, races and other games to raise money for charities including the Joy Fund, the Boys and Girls Club and the SPCA based on their individual need.

The event has taken place annually since 1967, but after a 44 year run, the charity was going to come to an end after the 2010 game. Hearing this, Priority Automotive President Dennis Ellmer decided to step in and save the game. Not only was Mr. Ellmer successful in keeping the tradition going, but he breathed new life into the event as well. In 2015 alone, the Charity Bowl raised over $200,000 for the various organizations in the community.

I really love how SpinCar presents on mobile. That ease of use is so important knowing about 58% of our customers are on mobile and that number is going to continue to grow. That’s one of the reasons I chose SpinCar.


-Matthew Pennell, Business Development Manager, Priority Automotive Group

With everything Priority does for their customers and their community across Virginia, it’s no surprise that Dennis Ellmer is representing the Virginia Automobile Dealers Association as one of the 50 nominees for the 2016 Time Dealer of the Year award. Nominees for the award are selected based on a number of sales and service criteria at the dealership like new and used car sales record, customer satisfaction, and ethics as well as the dealership’s service outside of the dealership in their community. One finalist from each of NADA’s four regions and one national finalist will be announced at the NADA Convention on April 1st in Las Vegas.

Is your dealership committed to giving back in 2016, both at the dealership and in the community?

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