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Spring 2019 Idea Magazine

April 22, 2019
Cox Automotive Executive Vice President and vAuto Founder Dale Pollak (fourth from left) and EVP & Chief People Officer Janet Barnard (fifth from left) were on campus to welcome students to the new Cox Automotive Solutions Lab.

Cox Automotive Executive Vice President and vAuto Founder Dale Pollak (fourth from left) and EVP & Chief People Officer Janet Barnard (fifth from left) were on campus to welcome students to the new Cox Automotive Solutions Lab.

Online Exclusive: Powering Up

New Cox Automotive Solutions Lab

Peeking into Northwood’s new Cox Automotive Solutions Lab can be deceiving. What looks like a typical computer lab is something extraordinary: students learning how to manage successful automotive businesses using the exact digital tools that dealerships use every day. This real-world learning opportunity donated by Cox Automotive was opened with a ribbon-cutting ceremony during Northwood’s Welcome Weekend in September 2018.

The Cox Automotive Solutions Lab is another way that Northwood gives students hands-on, experiential learning targeted to meet the automotive industry’s current and evolving needs. Located in the Robert W. Plaster Free Enterprise Center, the lab introduces Automotive Marketing and Management students to technology and tools that help maximize profitability in automotive dealerships.

“We are excited to add this cutting-edge computer lab to Northwood’s automotive marketing and management curriculum. With this tremendous gift, Cox Automotive is making a strong commitment to both our students and the future of the automotive industry,” said Elgie Bright, associate professor and chair of Northwood’s Automotive Marketing and Management Department. “Northwood students are learning how to use digital solutions that will give them an advantage in the workplace.”

In the Lab, students practice with the company’s portfolio of programs and theories, like vAuto’s Velocity Method of Management™ principles and Xtime’s concepts for improving efficiency on the fixed operations side of the business. Along with the lab, sophomores and juniors are taking two new classes, Fixed Operations and Variable Operations, developed by Bright.

“The Cox Automotive Solutions Lab continues our constructive partnership with Cox Automotive. As one of the leaders in automotive marketing, Cox Automotive offers our students a unique perspective into a quickly evolving market,” said Bright. “Our students are the industry’s future workforce. The lab – plus our new classes – puts their ‘learning curve’ in the classroom rather than waiting until they are on the job.”

Cox Automotive Supports Northwood Students

Since 2000, Cox Automotive and its businesses have been a dedicated friend of the University through:

  • Annual Cox Automotive full-ride scholarship for the general chair of the Northwood University International Auto Show

  • Annual Barbara Cox Memorial Scholarship for a female student enrolled in the Automotive Marketing and Management program

  • National Independent Automobile Dealers Association (NIADA) Scholarship

  • Sponsor of the annual Auto Show Gala, helping raise funds for two Northwood scholarships

  • Learning events such as the Interactive Dealer Summit in 2016 that focused on information sharing, best practices, and networking for NU students, Michigan dealerships, and Cox Automotive executives

  • Hiring Northwood graduates to work in the many companies under the Cox Automotive umbrella

Jeff Bennett’s students learn dealership management concepts in the Reynolds and Reynolds Lab using ERA-IGNITE software found in dealerships around the country.

Jeff Bennett’s students learn dealership management concepts in the Reynolds and Reynolds Lab using ERA-IGNITE software found in dealerships around the country.

Online Exclusive: In the Lab and Beyond

Reynolds and Reynolds Supports Northwood Students

Reynolds and Reynolds took a bold step several decades ago when it invested in Northwood’s automotive dealership education. Now the foundation of a positive and enduring blend of education and industry, Reynold’s early faith in “The Northwood Idea” has nurtured our students’ passion for careers in automotive dealerships for more than 40 years.

In 1975, Reynolds, a developer of dealership management system (DMS) software and hardware, generously installed its proprietary products in Northwood’s automotive lab. This confident first step created the Reynolds and Reynolds Lab, which continues to engage students in digital learning and promote dealership management best practices.

“Reynolds and Reynolds’ support of Northwood has been extensive. The company’s long-term commitment and many consecutive years of the friendship reflects their enthusiasm for our students, curriculum, and mission to develop leaders of a free-enterprise society,” said President Keith Pretty. “We are extremely thankful that the company places such a high value on encouraging students to become the future drivers and innovators of the automotive industry.”

A recognized leader in DMS technology, Reynolds is a respected and appreciated member of Northwood’s extended community. Students and faculty are achieving great things thanks to the resources and expertise that Reynolds shares beyond the Lab. The company generously sponsors a university faculty position and supports numerous campus activities and events, including the Northwood University International Auto Show. Students also gain experience and success through internships and careers with Reynolds.

“As a Northwood graduate and now a Reynolds employee, I’m proud to be part of the strong connection between these two impressive organizations,” said Timothy Kaiser (’18), Reynolds and Reynolds system sales trainee. “I am all about loyalty and giving back. And the relationship between Northwood and Reynolds is an example of all that can be achieved by working together with integrity.”

Learning Why and How

Reynolds supports education and young people every year through its unique commitment to Northwood. Since 1994, the company has sponsored a faculty position, which is currently held by Jeff Bennett, Northwood’s director of Automotive Technology Management. Reynolds’ recent extensive donation of its newest products provides students with professional-level insight into dealership management.

“Reynolds gives our students an incredible learning experience using the same advanced software and hardware that dealerships use. And their comprehensive support helps me teach classes that are relevant and practical,” said Bennett. “Thanks to their excellent built-in training, students not only learn the thinking behind DMS but also how to use it. I think it’s a great way to connect the classroom to the showroom.”

In the Gary A. Stauffer Academic Building, the digital lab runs Reynolds’ user-friendly ERA-IGNITE DMS software and hardware, which gives students an in-depth introduction to the programs that dealerships in North America use every day. In conjunction with Northwood classes like Dealership Variable Operations, Dealership Fixed Operations, and Dealership Accounting, students learn the benefits of digitally managing dealer operations and how Reynolds’ systems improve financial performance.

Dedicated to excellence in education, Reynolds continually updates the lab’s software and hardware. For example, students are now using Reynold’s high-tech development, the docuPAD® system, an interactive tabletop tool designed to engage customers and improve the finance and insurance process. Students are also learning with AddOnAuto, the company’s leading digital platform for vehicle accessory sales in dealerships.

“In the Reynolds and Reynolds Lab, students get hands-on learning that is current and authentic. Reynolds’ significant and generous investment gives our students a wealth of knowledge about the many ways DMS applications help improve dealership performance,” said Bennett.

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