We’re excited to welcome a new leader to America’s Car-Mart. Ray Pickens is our new Vice President of Operations, Region 5, where he’ll oversee 32 dealerships in Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi, and Tennessee, driving business growth and helping deliver what’s most important for our customers – peace of mind with their vehicle ownership.
To his new role at Car-Mart, Ray brings 40 years of helping companies grow and thrive in the automotive industry. Most recently, he served as President of Retail Operations at FullSpeed Automotive. He rose through the ranks at Monro, becoming a Divisional Vice President. At both companies, the driven and passionate leader led successful teams, built the necessary infrastructure systems, and standardized processes to drive growth and increase sales.
Ray’s automotive journey started as a teenager building hot rods. Ray attended Eastern Vocational Technical High School, majoring in Automotive Mechanics. He was fascinated with the workings of the internal combustion engine. That piqued his curiosity, and he was hooked. His first job was as an auto mechanic in high school.
“I’m thrilled to join Car-Mart and continue my automotive career. I love going to work every day,” says Ray. “I’m excited to add this piece of the automotive industry to my repertoire. I’ve always said we are in the people business; we just fix cars for a living. Now, I’ll say we are in the people business we just sell and finance cars for a living! I love this industry and couldn’t picture doing anything differently.”
Here’s more about Ray’s experience and why he is excited about Car-Mart:
What drew you to this opportunity? Why are you excited to join Car-Mart?
From the initial conversation with the Car-Mart recruiter to a panel interview with Car-Mart’s leadership team, I saw the passion they have for their company. It was genuine, which impressed me because I’m also very passionate.
Everyone I meet – and have met – at Car-Mart is fantastic. They’re always smiling and have great things to say about Car-Mart. You can feel that vibe. You can’t fake this or script it. I immediately felt the company’s positive personality.
Car-Mart has a strong culture driven by our mission, our vision and our values. We know who we are and where we want to go. The company is currently making the right business investments to prepare itself to be a more centralized, modern, streamlined organization.
Additionally, America’s Car-Mart was named to “America’s Greatest Workplaces 2023 for Diversity”. The company has also received accolades as one of America’s “Best Small Companies” and America’s Car-Mart was named the 2021 Independent Dealer of the Year. The company is certainly growing but remains on solid footing with regards to culture, processes and continued success.
How will the breadth of your 40 years of experience within the automotive industry help you in your new role?
I have experience behind the curtain and on the frontline – from actually working on cars to leading, developing and managing people. I started as a mechanic in high school. I was a store manager, district manager, regional manager, vice president, and president. I’ve done everything from entry level to executive leadership.
Plus, I’ve seen all sides of the business, and I can relate to people in various positions. I’ve had a lot of success with growth. In my 14 year tenure with Monro, I helped the company grow to over 1200 locations. I started as a district manager with 6 stores and left as a divisional vice president with responsibility for 700 locations. I’ve worked hard and learned a lot about the industry.
I’ve spent my entire career filling up this giant tool bag of stuff that works, best practices (and not so great practices) I use those tools to help others. My mantra and my approach to business is ‘aspire to inspire.’ I always try to improve personally, and also help others improve personally, professionally and financially. I feel most accomplished when the people I work with and the company I work for, both succeed.
What are your hopes for the automotive industry, and how might Car-Mart lead the way?
The automotive industry is going in so many different directions, with electric vehicles and the tug of war with fuel companies. When it comes to sales and the used car business, the focus is on consumers. That’s where Car-Mart comes in – having empathy for the consumer and putting their needs in the forefront. This is Car-Mart’s sweet spot. So, I believe Car-Mart will lead the way in serving and helping its customers. Our company’s VISION says it all “To be America’s best auto sales and finance company in the eyes of our associates and customers while improving the communities we serve.”
Tell us about the cars in your life!
Well, I may never have my all-time favorite car in my garage – a 2005 Ford GT. That car is a beast, pure American muscle. When I was younger, I built all kinds of cars. My first car was a Chevy Camaro my dad bought me for $400 when I was 15. He said “I’ll buy your first one, the rest is up to you.”. I fixed it up and sold it before I even started driving. My next car was a “68 Chevy Chevelle. We tore the motor and trans out and overhauled both. It became my first racing machine. From there the project cars flourished. We stuffed a V8 into a ’72 Chevy Vega and also smashed a V8 ’73 Opel GT. In the first half of my life, I’d get a different car every five or six months. I bought one of the first Dodge Stealth cars that came out. When Toyota updated its Supra, I purchased one of the first ones. I really like cars. I love to go fast. I love the feel of the power, the handling, the accelerating. I love the adrenaline!
What else do you like to do in your spare time?
My wife, Jill, and I like to go camping at Lake Lanier or Lake Allatoona with our 3 pups. We are BIG football fans rooting for the Baltimore Ravens. I grew up in Maryland. Jill is originally from upstate New York so we may root for the Buffalo Bills from time to time, when they are not playing Baltimore!). Now that we’ve moved to Georgia, we can add the Bulldogs to the list!
What are your hopes and dreams for Car-Mart?
I want to make Car-Mart the best place to buy a car and finance a car. When people see a ‘coming soon’ sign in their community, they’ll say, ‘finally, Car-Mart is coming to town. I’ve heard they have really good vehicles, service contracts and great service.’
Car-Mart will expand its customer base and become a vehicle provider giant!
And for me personally, I want to follow in my dad’s footsteps. He left a significant legacy for his life and career –being a highly respected leader. I want to leave that same legacy.