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Brand Loyalty and EV Strategies for Dealerships With Eric Barbosa

  • April 18, 2023
15 min read
Brand Loyalty and EV Strategies for Dealerships With Eric Barbosa

Ilana Shabtay, Fullpath
VP of Marketing

Eric Barbosa, Cavender Automotive Group
Vice President of Variable Operations

Eric Barbosa is the Vice President of Variable Operations at Cavender Automotive Group, a family-owned dealership selling Audi, Buick, Cadillac, Chevrolet, GMC, Land Rover, and Toyota brands. He is a multi-talented, top-tier dealership business leader known for having a strong ability to drive sales with experience in finance, budget management, and customer service. Eric is also valued for having accomplished volume and profit records in selling new and pre-owned cars. Before Cavender, Eric was the Managing Partner at Henson Brand.

Here’s a glimpse of what you’ll learn:

  • Eric talks about his transition to Cavender Automotive Group — and his focus on social media
  • The operational differences between small and large dealerships
  • How brand loyalty has evolved over the years
  • Cavender’s electric vehicle (EV) strategy
  • Navigating EV inventory and production

In this episode…

As digital marketing continues to evolve, dealerships are struggling to establish an engaging brand. Consequently, loyalty has decreased. How can you create a unique brand that stands out from competitors?

According to Eric Barbosa, your company’s culture influences your brand. To boost loyalty, you must encourage your team to focus on strategies that drive additional traffic and convert leads to returning customers. What works for other dealerships may not work for you, so understanding your customers’ needs and preferences is imperative.

Eric Barbosa, the Vice President of Variable Operations at Cavender Automotive Group, joins Ilana Shabtay in this episode of the InsideAuto Podcast to talk about brand loyalty in the automotive space. They also discuss Cavender’s electric vehicle strategy, the operational differences between small and large dealerships, and the benefits of pre-ordering EVs.

Resources Mentioned in this episode

Sponsor for this episode…

This episode is brought to you by Fullpath (formerly AutoLeadStar).

Fullpath is the automotive industry’s leading customer data and experience platform (CDXP).

Fullpath enables dealers to turn their first-party data into lifelong customers by unifying siloed data sources and leveraging that data to create exceptional, hyper-personalized customer experiences.

To learn more, visit

Episode Transcript

Intro 0:03

Welcome to InsideAuto Podcast where we feature everyone and anyone you’d want to talk to you in and out of the automotive industry.

Ilana Shabtay 0:14

Ilana Shabtay here, host of InsideAuto Podcast where we interviewed top dealers, GMs, marketers, entrepreneurs, and thought leaders in and out of the automotive industry. And before we introduce today’s guest, this episode is sponsored by Fullpath is automotive’s leading customer data and experience platform. Fullpath enables dealers to turn their first-party data into lifelong customers by unifying siloed data sources and leveraging that data to create exceptional hyper-personalized customer experiences. To learn more, visit Today we have a returning guest, which is super exciting. We have Eric Barbosa. Eric, how are you doing?

Eric Barbosa 0:56

Doing great. I’m glad to be on you again. Yeah,

Ilana Shabtay 1:00

you too. I’m glad I actually got to meet you at NADA, even though it was only 30 seconds. But I saw you on the floor. And I was able to introduce myself. So that was fun.

Eric Barbosa 1:10

Yes. There was.

Ilana Shabtay 1:11

You had a very busy show.

Eric Barbosa 1:13

It’s always hectic there. Yeah. It’s always running around talking to vendors catching up manufacturers. So yeah, it was it was it was a good day, though. It was good day for sure.

Ilana Shabtay 1:23

Yeah. Well, today you have I mean, you been year as an automotive as a leader. You drive sales and operational excellence with experience in finance, budget management and customer service. We’re excited to have you back. You were on the podcast as managing partner at Henson brand cdjr, Ford, Chevrolet, GMC, Buick, and now you’re at Cavender Automotive Group.

Eric Barbosa 1:46

Yes, correct.

Ilana Shabtay 1:48

Yes. What’s the initial title there.

Eric Barbosa 1:50

I’m the Vice President of variable operations for the Oregon.

Ilana Shabtay 1:55

Awesome. So I’m sure bringing lots of expertise tell us about what the moves been like.

Eric Barbosa 2:00

hectic but fun. Obviously, it’s in a different area. The previous group I was with I was in a smaller town, but amazing town, amazing group. But this is a little bit different there. It’s eight rooftops and they’re predominantly in the Metroplex, opposed to the smaller areas and brands. So we have, you know, Jaguar Land Rover. We have Nissan, GMC, Buick, Ford, Chevy Cadillac. And it’s it’s a fourth generation company as well. So this is the fourth gen. of leadership in the group. So I’m excited about that. And yeah, it’s been, it’s been different. It’s not an easy transition. Yeah, I’m

Ilana Shabtay 2:46

sure now the challenges are, are always good. And one thing that we talked about last time you were on the podcast was the focus on social and all the things that you were doing through Facebook, are you going to be implementing any of that at this new group?

Eric Barbosa 3:00

Yeah, the funny thing is, that is that is on our priorities, and operational stuff. A lot of people know me from the Facebook stuff, social media, pushing pills, and, you know, leading I think we got almost 50% female. Yeah, female employment at our stores. And yet, I still those are passions, but I’m realizing at this level with, you know, this scope of stores is is to mentor and train people to do that. And me kind of step back and get get people to do that. But yeah, I’ll still, you know, go in, and that’s the game plan. And we have a bigger, I would say, a bigger stretch, I think we can get because of the amount of stores, and a lot more employees. But my key thing there is to get people to learn it, get the staff to learn it, embrace it, and then go execute.

Ilana Shabtay 3:53

That, I mean, that’s the best way to do it, especially if you have more stores. And it’s going to be it’s going to take longer to make the impact if you have more ambassadors along the way. You really successful and what are the you know, what are the differences that you’re seeing in the operations of the of the groups, whatever you can share? Like, what what worked at your previous dealership that might not necessarily work for this group, or vice versa?

Eric Barbosa 4:18

I think both groups do things. Well, just I think what I’ll bring here is things that I’ve seen is just, you know, it’s harder to me in the rural, like stores, smaller stores you have, I think you have to grind a little harder. Yeah, gotta get traffic in the stores. So, for example, you know, activities have to be extremely high there, were here you’re kind of used to the traffic. So I’m taking the approach of high activity still even here. And we’re actually transitioning the staff to do that. And we’re seeing, you know, we’re seeing some good results from it, but that’s a culture change. So I’m not saying they didn’t, they didn’t anything bad or good or whatever I just, it is different because they’re you literally, if you’re not on the phones and you’re not, you know, posting all the time and doing things to drive business, people aren’t just pulling off the freeway to go to the store. To get it to the volume we were doing, it was a lot of work here, during the middle of, you know, San Antonio, and in one other store in Dallas, which, you know, you got millions.

Ilana Shabtay 5:26

And then, of course, you’re probably focusing on like, the quality of that activity. Because if you are you if you have the luxury of people just coming in, then let’s make sure that the actual experience is good, so that you can have customers for life loyal customers that are coming back to your specific brand.

Eric Barbosa 5:42

Absolutely. And the good thing is that we have some people aligned with that our CEO, Rob Cavender, the team lead Cavender web calendar, and Colby Joyner who you know,

Ilana Shabtay 5:51

yes. And he’s been on the podcast twice. Yes. You do it.

Eric Barbosa 5:58

The strategy is that, yes, he’s amazing. He’s on the strategy and marketing. But yeah, you’re absolutely right. It’s the quality. But we do want to start building certain habits, right? Yeah. And those have to be efficient and productive, especially now, you know, people got used to picking up the phone. And if they, if you had it, you sold it. Training, you know, we got to go back to training activities and making sure all these things are done. Right. So I’m excited about that.

Ilana Shabtay 6:24

And do you see, this can also be with your experience at Henson or elsewhere? But are you seeing that brand loyalty in general has gone down? That’s what I’m reading about. Meaning like it used to be that if your grandfather bought brought from a specific brand, like that was the brand and that was the dealership that you went to and now there’s just so much competition when it comes to, you know, how we shop and how we research and, and the space isn’t what it used to like do? Do you find that brand loyalty is going down? Do you see that? That might not necessarily influence your specific audience? I don’t know. It’s just something interesting to me, because I’m trying to keep up with it.

Eric Barbosa 7:02

Yeah, yes, and no. And I think it also depends on the group. And do you you know, some people like to think they have a brand, but don’t really have a brand and have unders they’ve been in existence for 80 plus years, they do have a brand, it’s important to them. And that goes to the culture, which then goes to the consumer. And now it’s adapting to that new way of, of shopping. And I think you’ll see some initiatives coming from us to make sure that we don’t get affected as much as by what you’re saying, because it does exist, it’s out there. But it just depends on on how you go market and how you make that customer experience. Right? So you’ve got to know what your consumer wants, right? And how they want to shop and how they want to communicate. And that’s extremely important to be aware of it. Yeah, I’ve seen it. And I just I don’t, I think it’s in here. And as long as you have a strategy and a plan to do what you’re supposed to be doing, I think you can increase your brand, right, you can actually add more, and not only keep what you had before

Ilana Shabtay 8:08

100%. And then And then I’d love to know a little bit about evey strategy, if you are focusing on it. You know, how is that affecting how you’re planning for 2020? The rest of 2023 and 2024, if at all interested in hearing a little bit about that.

Eric Barbosa 8:24

Absolutely. It’s funny one of their stores here has solar panels everywhere. We’re all Evie compliant. Every Every store has charging stations, we just did the we have a grande Ford store in San Antonio that can’t get into too much detail. It was probably gonna be one of the biggest Ford’s in the nation and we elite program and yeah, EVS EVs a big deal for us. And look, it’s a big deal for the manufacturer. So it’s another thing that gives us an opportunity to take care of our consumers. That’s the way we look at it.

Ilana Shabtay 8:59

I think that is the exact way to look at it. And I just, I mean, I live over here in Israel, but we just got our first TV and it is insane. First of all, I’m a little I like barely touch it because my husband’s obsessed with it. And I’m like, Okay, I don’t want to scratch the car. But he it’s crazy. And we drive it and I literally see the battery if I feel like I’m driving a phone. Like we drove 20 minutes, and I’m just like, oh, we went down from 53% to 47%. Like I it is so crazy. That to think that we’re driving an electric vehicle.

Eric Barbosa 9:30

Well think about it. We’re programmed that way already. Yeah, I know. We’re grown up all the time.

Ilana Shabtay 9:36

I know. It’s it’s I mean, it’s insane. And I never believed that. Within 10 years, we’re will be 80% Bv or whatever that statistic is. And now I do like there’s just no way that we’re not going to be there’s not going to be mass adoption in the next five years.

Eric Barbosa 9:52

I think there will be but I also still think that ISIS is a real deal and will still keep, you know, commercial engines out there. Aaron, we’ve got to have a good mix and again, embrace the future.

Ilana Shabtay 10:07

Yeah, that’s what I meant when I’m in that car. I’m just like, wow, this is the future, I might never get to drive it, but it’s the future. And then what is like, I’m actually not in the know when it comes to this but easy inventory. Is that problematic or challenging at all? What is that looking like?

Eric Barbosa 10:25

It’s not that it’s problematic. I think we’re all getting used to, to, you know, different manufacturers have a different way. They’re all different, right? So as long as mine and your facilities are up to date, you’ll get X amount of production has been a little lower, obviously, with the constraints the last couple of years that we’ve been dealing with. But I see that changing here pretty quickly. And I think that as long as we do the right thing and create awareness around that, we’re gonna get the inventory, we’re going to be selling them and we’re gonna turn them I mean, I just, you know, that’s a real market and people want them, you know, it’s not something that the manufacturer just said one day, hey, let’s do this and see if it works. There’s gonna, there’s gonna be effective. Yeah.

Ilana Shabtay 11:10

And it’s also going to go you think in that like, pre order, the pre order market pre order. Consumer have like for us, we waited for four months. Sorry.

Eric Barbosa 11:20

So yeah, I’m glad you said you ordered because I, I’m a big fan of ordering, you get exactly what you paid a little bit, but you get what you want to the exact specs and colors. I think this is a good model. And we’ve seen that in the last year, year and a half, right?

Ilana Shabtay 11:36

Yeah. Yeah, I think I think it’ll be and also just a change in mindset, like now, if you know that you’re not going to be able to get the car you necessarily want right away, and you’ll have to wait three months, like Okay, so you shift your timeline, right?

Eric Barbosa 11:50

No, I think it’s a good thing. I will say this inventory levels are coming back up. So hopefully it’s the right mix. I think the manufacturer is starting to dial in what people actually want, which makes us way more efficient as dealers.

Ilana Shabtay 12:02

Yeah. Well, that also goes back to what you said earlier, which is like, inventory levels are going up. Dealers need to remember now. It’s not just low supply, high demand, right. So there’s the trainings coming back and negotiations coming back, like get make sure that your dealership staff is ready for that challenge, especially if they just started selling at a dealer in the last two years. Like they probably think it’s like frickin the easiest thing in the world. Because, like you want to come sure we’ll give it to you for 10,000 above MSRP.

Eric Barbosa 12:30

Yeah, no more. I actually I prefer this. I prefer the trained professionalism, the volume selling the you know, interaction with the consumer, not just a phone call. I think it’s gonna get exciting.

Ilana Shabtay 12:44

Yeah. Awesome. Well, we’ll have you back in six months. We’ll have to see how it’s going. Thank you so much for joining us. Any any last thoughts before that you want to share with our listeners before we sign off here?

Eric Barbosa 12:56

No, just keep growing, be progressive, be positive, and things aren’t bad things are great.

Ilana Shabtay 13:01

Awesome. Okay. Well, thank you so much. And if you like this episode, InsideAuto Podcast, you can find all of our episodes on and all your favorite streaming outlets. Thank you again, Eric.

Outro 13:14

Thanks for listening to InsideAuto Podcast. Check out our other episodes with top entrepreneurs and industry leaders.

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