100 Leading Women in the North American Auto Industry
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Rita CASE

Vice President • Rick Case Automotive Group • Age 55
 
 
 
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Why did you want to work in the auto industry? I was raised in the car business and decided to continue working in the car business after I graduated from college. I loved it. The car business is definitely a unique business with a lot of passion and a lot of intensity, a lot of hours. But when you're raised with it, it becomes part of your personality — that constant intensity and the fast pace. And everybody likes to talk about cars. Nobody I ever met doesn't want to talk about it. When I was much younger and realized there were very few women in the car business, that gave me a real challenge. I said I'm going to be a car dealer. I'm going to show that women can succeed in a very male-dominated industry.

On cars, love, marriage: I started the first Honda 20 group in 1977. That's where I met my husband, Rick Case. He was single, and I was single. We were the first two Honda dealers to ever get married. I was already running my dad's dealership and had been successful. When we decided to get married, that was a very big decision. I was leaving my legacy and my hometown, but I was in love. When I married Rick and moved from Santa Rosa, Calif., to Akron, Ohio, I started working fairly quickly. I was now the dealer's wife. I made my place in his company. I took it upon myself to choose a position no one else had in order to gain his company's respect. I became the parts and service director. Then I became the CFO.

First automotive job: My first official job, when I actually made a paycheck, was at 13. I checked in and put away parts.

Proudest professional achievement: Being the No. 1 selling Acura dealer seven years in a row in the United States from 1997 to 2003.

Current challenge at work: It's twofold: Employee morale and reducing people leaving. I want to maximize associate morale to have a passion and career with our company. Rick and I are very involved with our associates. We do a lot of charity work. We have a commitment to leadership professional training called Rapport. It's an outside company we send everyone to. It's not about the car business. It's about being a better leader of your own life and balancing your life and family and time and career.

On women as sales representatives: The women make the decisions on the car, although they may not be the ones pulling out the checkbook. We have always tried to hire women — service advisers, salespeople, managers, F&I people. They balance a showroom. They balance a department. They balance the atmosphere. It's like the difference between going to a cowboy bar and going to a more upscale martini bar.

On working with a spouse: We respect each other. It's that simple. I respect his decision making. When we first got married, I made a point not to challenge his expertise, and he was not going to challenge mine. That's the only way a husband and wife can work.

Dream job: To be a personnel motivator, a speaker. Not to teach them to sell, but to be someone who stands up in front of a group of people and teaches them how to be more positive and more appreciative of what they have. I do that with my own stores. I'm the one who walks in the dealership and says, "Good morning. What a great day today."

On a nickname: I learned to be a fighter right from the beginning being very, very young and working in a business of all guys. They used to call me DD — dealer's daughter, like she's only here because she's the dealer's daughter. And I loved it. So I would work harder, come in earlier. I'd be smarter. I'd be more successful. I'd sell more than anybody else. I'd have the answers first. Instead of crawling into a hole and saying, "Oh, jeez, nobody is ever going to respect me," I took it another way.

What you do to relax: I love hobbies. I'm a pilot. I've got the first Honda jet on order. I'm getting my jet certificate right now. I'm a glass blower. I give all my work for charity. I ride motorcycles. I have several Honda dirt bikes and street bikes. Rick and I take trips across the country. I love to deep-sea fish. We ski, play golf.

— Amy Wilson

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