Garrick Hatfield posing by a car at his dealershipWhen most people think about their first part-time job, they probably don’t associate it with the start of a career, but that wasn’t the case with Garrick Hatfield, “My career in the automotive industry started back in high school when I was working at a family friend’s dealership. I continued working there part-time until I went to college and then transitioned into a sales role at a dealership owned by that same friend in El Paso, Texas.”

Hatfield continued working his way up through the industry including roles as a general manager and co-owner of a dealership group in Florida. “I continued to spend the next several years working my way up the ladder so when the opportunity to own and operate Motor Trends of Houston was presented in March of 2019, I was ready to make the leap and started with just an empty building and lot. The only hurdle I encountered was finding a floor plan company that would work with an independent dealer. Fortunately, a friend of mine told me about NextGear Capital and they’ve been my lender ever since.”

He says that his relationship with NextGear has been a seamless one from the very beginning. “I was contacted by one of their representatives who was awesome to work with. They got me the information I requested quickly and it only took a short amount of time before I was approved, which honestly surprised me because I was a startup dealership. I bought my first car at auction using my NextGear Capital floor plan and now have about 120 vehicles in my inventory. I‘ve never experienced any surprises or issues with my NextGear account.”

Hatfield also says that using tools like condition reports has helped to build his business, while at the same time establishing trust with his customers. “Our main focus at Motor Trends is transparency, anything and everything that we can provide to the consumer so that they’re educated about the vehicle they’re interested in purchasing, we fully support. I use tools like condition reports to understand the ins and outs of the inventory I’ve purchased to help ensure I’m delivering a high quality unit to my customers. We also perform a 153-point inspection after the unit’s been purchased that informs our customers of any potential issues or defects we discover. We let them know about any service that’s performed after the inspection and provide them with a copy of the report. We also include free access to CARFAX and AutoCheck reports to each vehicle listing on our website.”

With this focus on transparency and providing his customers with quality vehicles, it should come as no surprise that he’s also a big advocate for extensively reconditioning vehicles before selling them. “I don’t know a lot of other dealers who purchase pre-owned vehicles that recondition to the extent we do. We have our own internal criteria and requirements for tires, pads, rotors, etc. We do an oil and filter change on every vehicle and most of our cars also get an air filter change as well. We put our reputation on the line, so we make sure that every vehicle is reconditioned to the best of our ability.”

Unlike a lot of dealers, Hatfield says that the pandemic didn’t negatively impact his business. “Our business model has always been very customer centric and focused on things like online sales and door-to-door delivery, so when the pandemic hit we were already operating with that business model in place. We have digital remarketing tools like a Trade-In Valet available on our website so customers can easily access an appraisal of the vehicle they’re interested in trading in. We also do a lot of  in-state deliveries throughout Texas which are free, as well as very competitively priced out-of-state deliveries. This proved helpful during the pandemic because customers were able to purchase vehicles from us in states where dealerships had been closed down, so this new way of doing business fell into our wheelhouse.”The front of the dealership, Motor Trends

Although this dealer’s business model already fit into the current pandemic, he still needed to tweak some of his operations. “We obviously had to comply with the rules and regulations that were being asked for by local officials. We put safety protections in place here at the dealership by performing extra sanitation to the vehicles before delivery and after test drives, and followed all the protocol that was being asked for by the state. We did everything we could to make sure that our customers were being protected.”

Even though his business has been in operation for less than two years, Hatfield has still found ways to give back to his local community. “I’ve provided free coffee and donuts to recognize local law enforcement and I’ve also donated to the local Alvin Community Food Pantry. One of my goals is to look for more opportunities in the future to help support the Alvin community. My main focus has been getting my business up and running but I do believe in supporting my local community too.”

While Hatfield jokes that he really doesn’t want to give away any tips to other dealers on how to be successful, he says it’s actually pretty simple. “There really is no secret to it, just buy good inventory and be honest and straightforward through your sales process. Because of our size, we are able to be more nimble, so we could better meet the needs and wants of the client. With our focus on creating a virtual car buying experience, we do a lot of phone, email and phone messaging and that’s how our business model was built. I don’t see 70% of my customers in person and I’ve delivered inventory all over the state of Texas and to almost 40 states. Obviously, I’m also grateful to NextGear Capital because they’ve supported my business form the very beginning and I am loyal to them for that reason.”