In celebration of Women’s History Month, Dominion DMS applauds the women in automotive who have contributed to the industry’s advancement over the past 30 years. From breaking corporate glass ceilings to breaking stereotypes on the service lane, these women forged new paths and empowered a new generation to pursue careers in automotive retail.
Arlene Clements brings more than 20 years of experience working with dealers and OEMs, including a breadth of expertise in automotive software. She began her career training dealership personnel on DMS before moving into consulting, working with dealers to optimize their software utilization of DMS, CRM and other ancillary services. As integration and data became more important in the late 1990s, Arlene managed data services for a DMS provider, working with third parties to integrate them into the system. Afterwards, she worked with public and large dealer groups – such as AutoNation, Penske, Lithia, Hendricks and Sonic – to identify custom needs and required integrations to maximize their value. Given her experience working with OEMs on their lead management and CRM initiatives, it was a natural transition to her role at Dominion DMS, where she is responsible for securing OEM partnerships with VUE.
“When I entered the industry, there were not many women, especially in leadership roles. Since then, the number of women and their contributions have grown exponentially over the last few decades. They are helping to reshape the automotive industry by leading and inspiring others to follow the same path.”
Kim Campassi co-founded Motive Retail in 2008 to help solve the systems integration problems that were constraining the automotive retail market. Her vision was that a fundamental re-wiring of the systems, data and processes was sorely needed and that better integration of systems and data would lead to innovation, competition and a healthy market for dealers, OEMs and software providers. After many years dedicated to this mission, Kim understands the business, technical, legal and even political challenges that have made exchanging data in auto retail difficult. Her tenacity and expertise is often sought out by business leaders at the OEMs, DMS, and dealer software companies around the globe.
“My mother always said, ‘You will be successful through innovation and determination.’ This has been true for my career, and I offer the same advice to all professional women.”
Sharon Kitzman is a dealership software pioneer and dealer advocate. As Dominion DMS President, she leads a team in launching VUE DMS, the first cloud-native DMS built on Microsoft Azure. Previously, Sharon worked for several automotive software providers, where she held leadership positions in sales, marketing, product lifecycle management, process re-engineering, OEM management, professional and customer services. With a reputation for successfully launching new products and growing market share, Sharon’s 29 years of experience marks a pioneering career that’s paved the way for women in the automotive industry for 3 decades. She was twice named to the Automotive News Top 100 Leading Women.
“When I started in the industry, there weren’t many women. Today, I see many talented women holding leadership positions – several of whom are right here in our own company and the partners we work with. I am proud to have their experience and guidance as we grow the market for VUE DMS.”
It seems that automotive has always been a part of Kathi Kruse’s life. Her grandfather was a dealer in the 1960s, and she held executive leadership positions for many successful dealerships and auto groups – including stores in Beverly Hills that were #1 in their market. Her experience offers a unique view of how dealerships are run, especially when it comes to financials and data. During the 2008 recession, she saw the need for dealerships to increase their online ratings and build their brand on social media. Since then, her automotive digital retail consulting business Kruse Control took off. Today, Kathi is an in-demand speaker, contributor and thought leader. She works with dealers nationwide to build their brand and shift towards digital retail processes that enable them to deliver a seamless consumer experience.
“In the last 10 years, I’ve seen an emergence for women in automotive retail. I see a lot more female GMs. Corporations and private groups see the value of women in a dealership environment. It can only get better as the industry shifts more into the digital space.”
With nearly 20 years of experience in client services where she’s implemented software in over 400 dealerships nationwide, Meg Martino understands the challenges dealers face. At Dominion DMS, she leads a Services team that deploys, trains, and supports VUE dealers, helping them to maximize the value of a true cloud-native DMS.
“Over the past 20 years, just as the software has changed, so has the involvement of women in the automotive industry. More and more women have earned leadership positions and bring their unique perspectives to the business – an important aspect of our success at Dominion DMS.”
Terri Parker has been in a dealership for as long as she could remember. Her father became a dealer when she was 10, where she gained hands-on experience of dealership operations and learned what keeps the business going. After finishing her accounting degree, she moved back home to work in the family dealership. With such in-depth experience, Terri can see herself following in her father’s footsteps someday as a dealer. While she experienced much support in her career, Terri recognizes the challenges women face in the automotive retail business. To create opportunities for more women to succeed in the industry, work-life balance, telecommuting and flexibility will be key.
“A lot of what I do can be done from home now. With the new VUE DMS being cloud based, for example, technology opens opportunities for women in roles that traditionally wasn’t as accessible.”
Jennifer Settlemires began working at Griffis Motors 26 years ago after graduating from college. At the time, it was mostly male dominated, but she was determined to learn every position. Her grandmother Jean Griffis, the first woman in the Southeastern region to be awarded a franchise that wasn’t owned by a husband or father, started Jennifer out as a cashier. Then she worked in service for a couple of years. When the parts manager was called up for war, she took on those responsibilities. Afterward, she conquered F&I. Jennifer grew up in Griffis Motors, and her favorite part of running a dealership is talking to customers and getting to see new people every day. Her grandmother’s larger-than-life legacy continues to inspire her to give 100% every day.
“My grandmother taught me more than any college ever could. When I started here, it was a man’s job, and I was determined to learn every position. I think women can do anything they want – I proved that.”
Dawn Spitler has over two decades of experience in the automotive industry, specializing in dealership processes and software with OEM requirements and programs. At Dominion DMS, she is responsible for developing OEM partnerships, allowing more dealers to choose VUE. Previously, Dawn held a variety of roles including customer support, product planning, fixed operations and sales at an automotive software company. She began her career working in dealerships where she learned the operations and processes, eventually becoming the Service and Parts Manager.
“At the end of the day, you can only work as hard as you can work. But if you continue to learn from the work you have done, nothing can stop you from achieving your dreams.”