Our America’s Car-Mart story continues with the addition of Smart Auto, as we expand our footprint in Tennessee. Smart Auto joins seven Car-Mart dealerships in Tennessee. In late 2021, we announced the purchase of Smart Auto.
“The Knoxville employees are happy our business will continue,” says Kyle Kirchhofer, General Manager and Chief Financial Officer, Smart Auto, and now Vice President of Business Operations, Car-Mart. “We are excited about the resources from Car-Mart that can help us grow our business. All of us at Smart Auto are excited to be a part of something bigger.”
Kyle answers some questions about Smart Auto and why they’re thrilled to be a part of Car-Mart.
Tell us about Smart Auto:
Smart Auto operates three dealerships in Knoxville and Johnson City, Tenn. We sell vehicles, we finance, and we collect the money.
Our company started in 2005 as a J.D. Byrider franchise in Knoxville. In 2011, we opened a second store in Johnson City, and we became independent. In 2017, we opened Bright Motors in Knoxville to sell used, commercial vehicles.
Vince Keller founded Smart Auto after being introduced to the business from a friend. He enjoyed the opportunity to help customers who needed our services. He took pride in providing basic transportation to help people. He liked the economics and the purpose the company served. And he realized that customers need our services.
Our core passion is to drive a brighter future for customers and employees.
What makes Smart Auto unique?
Our customer service separates us from other used car dealerships. The better you can be at customer service, the more repeat business and referrals you’ll have. We have a sales shop, service centers, collections, and we provide a high level of service at each step along the customer’s journey.
Every vehicle comes with a 24-month warranty. We have an onsite service department that allows us to be more nimble. We report to the three major credit agencies. And like Car-Mart, as customers pay us and succeed in their loan, we help them build a better financial future for themselves.
Why did Smart Auto decide to sell to Car-Mart?
We wanted a better future for our employees, and we saw that Car-Mart could help. It was important to our founder that employees keep their jobs and that they have future career opportunities.
Steve Taylor of Taylor Motors introduced Vince to Car-Mart. He had nothing but good things to say about Car-Mart. Car-Mart is very similar to Smart Auto in our purpose and service to customers. We’re almost the same company. Our collections processes are almost identical. It was comfortable knowing that Car-Mart wasn’t a big scary corporation, but more like us.
And most importantly, we were comfortable with the people. We were impressed with Car-Mart’s culture. It’s strong, and that’s important to us.
What do you want Car-Mart associates to know about Smart Auto?
We do business the same way that Car-Mart conducts its business. We face the same challenges. And we’re excited to be a part of the Car-Mart team. We have 39 employees; 11 in Johnson City are already Car-Mart associates.
We’re doing a great job of selling vehicles. We’ve sold over 10,000 vehicles since 2005 in Knoxville, over 6,000 vehicles since December 2011 in Johnson City. Bright Motors has sold over 2,500 vehicles since 2017.
Our employee turnover is low with less than 15 percent. The average tenure of our employees is over 10 years, and we’re proud of this. We want Smart Auto – and now Car-Mart – to be a great place to work.