Pre-owned biggies

A few familiar names in the Charleston area made the list of the largest used car sales operations nationwide last year, according to a noted trade magazine.

Automotive News last month released its report on the Top 100 Dealership Groups in the U.S., Ranked on Used-Vehicle Sales.

Not surprisingly, a national company that specializes in pre-owned car deals headed the chart.

CarMax Inc., of Richmond, Va., reported 447,728 "used retail unit sales" while amassing nearly $8.75 billion in revenues or about $19,536 a car. There's a CarMax outlet on Savage Road in Charleston.

Placing 7th was Charlotte-based Hendrick Automotive Group, tallying 74,494 in pre-owned car and truck sales and close to $1.55 billion in revenues, or $20,753 per vehicle. Hendrick counts new-car dealerships in metro Charleston offering BMW, Chevrolet, Chrysler, Dodge, Fiat, Honda, Hyundai, Jeep, Lexus, Mini, Ram, Scion, Toyota and Volvo. The outlets, located on Savannah Highway or Rivers Avenue, also all sell used vehicles.

Anderson Automotive Group, headquartered in Raleigh, squeezed in at 83rd. The owner of Fred Anderson Toyota on Savannah Highway sold 7,438 used vehicles last year while racking up $122 million in revenues, or $16,402 per car.

S.C.'s automotive whiz kids

Among car specialists in their 20s and 30s, there's some talent floating around South Carolina.

At least two sales and service experts with ties to Palmetto state operations are on Automotive News' third annual "40 Under 40" retail owners and managers.

They include Kelly Alston, 37, who's the general manager of Stateline Chrysler-Jeep-Dodge-Ram in Fort Mill. Alston's big achievement, Automotive News said, was guiding the dealership through the recession without layoffs.

Alston, in a story about his efforts, said the dealership trimmed back lots of ways besides eliminating employees. "We cut everything - advertising, Saturday lunch, gas in sold cars - any outside service that wasn't absolutely necessary for us to conduct business."

He said making tough choices then made him a better leader and businessperson. "When you're faced with all that adversity, when you have nowhere to run and nowhere to hide, it teaches you to dig in and face things," Alston told Automotive News.

Also chosen for the retail 40 Under 40 was Chris Dixon, who serves as "fixed operations director" at Carolina Volvo in Bluffton as well as Volvo of Savannah, Savannah Mitsubishi and Premier Collision in Duluth, Ga.

According to the publication, his success story was boosting fixed-operation profits "while driving a sharp improvement in customer-satisfaction scores." In an article about Dixon, the 30-year-old manager said, "I really want to show that you can do things the right way and still be profitable."