CEO Yvonne Hovell Leads East Tulsa Dodge’s Growth

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ENERGETIC TULSAN: Yvonne Hovell, the president and CEO of East Tulsa Dodge, has increased her lot size significantly and will soon finish the renovation of the showroom. She invites everyone to come and take a look at the 4627 South Memorial Drive location.

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Yvonne Hovell, the president and CEO of East Tulsa Dodge, has brought her success story to Green Country, much to the satisfaction of those she reaches through civic responsibility, employee relations, and consumer expectations.
Raised on the East Coast, Hovell graduated from high school in Philadelphia. While growing up, she was encouraged by her mother, who said more than once: “Yvonne, you will get your college education.”

She took the advice to heart, earning a B.S. degree in Pharmaceutical Science from Howard University in Washington, D.C., and later entering graduate school at the University of Illinois Medical Center in Chicago, where she received her Master’s degree in Public Health.

Hovell began her professional career at the University of Chicago Hospital Pharmacy. Later, she joined the faculty at the University of Illinois at Chicago, where she taught International Health and Public Health to pharmaceutical students for three years.
About this time, a former classmate asked Hovell to join her in a startup clinical pharmacy business. She agreed, and the pair proceeded to renovate a facility in Chicago’s inner city. The business became very successful.

By the mid-1980s Yvonne had married Larry Hovell, a man with an entrepreneurial spirit who decided to enter the automobile business. He found his opportunity in Green Bay, Wisconsin, where he opened the Bay City Chrysler Plymouth dealership in 1987. The world seemed nearly perfect for the couple through most of the 1990s. They became community leaders in the city famous for the professional football Packers, serving on many boards and civic groups such as the Founders Association of the University of Wisconsin at Green Bay.

Hovell’s life dramatically changed in 1998 when her husband died in the peak of his career. She remembers, “Everything looked wonderful for us. We had endeared ourselves to the community. All I knew was that life would never be the same.”

The young lady had a choice: sell the dealership or stay and continue the operation. She opted for the latter and continued to build the business. She remembers, “I had to go to work. I had a lot of learning to do about the automobile business.” Her entrepreneurial aptitude and previous business experience helped her. She immersed herself into the business, attending the National Automobile Dealers Association—Dealer Academy and learning as much as she could “on-the job.” She says that she had to prove herself to the Chrysler Corporation, which she did.

By 2000, Hovell was ready for a change, though she wanted to stay in the automobile business with Chrysler products. She discovered that the East Tulsa Dodge dealership was for sale, and in October of 2000 she sold her Green Bay operation to move south. She became a Tulsan in February 2001. She says, “I wanted to move, and I wanted a Dodge dealership, a bigger market, and better weather. I found all of it here in Tulsa.”

After she moved to Tulsa, Hovell began to organize the dealership, and then came September 11. She comments, “All of us have known what was going on with the economy. And after 9-11, times were tough. But I see encouraging changes since the Vision 2025 vote and the efforts of the Tulsa Metro Chamber. Vision 2025 has been positive for the morale of the city. People of responsibility here work to attract new business to the area, and I find that encouraging.”

She has become a civic leader in the community, serving on several boards, including the Mental Health Association, the Junior League of Tulsa, the Oklahoma Work Force, and Foundation for the Schools.

Hovell has been working hard to improve her dealership. She purchased the old Florafax property at East 46th Street and South Memorial Drive, directly to the north of the East Tulsa Dodge location, to increase the size of her property significantly. She had the old building torn down, which, she says, “adds to our inventory, selection, visibility, and public access to the lot.” The public may now enter the dealership from both East 46th Street and South Memorial Drive.

Hovell also set her sights on improving the showroom, commenting, “Almost nothing had been done to the property for the past 19 years. The showroom and offices needed an overhaul as well.” Financing has been aided through the manufacturer, who Hovell says is extremely supportive. The improvements have been “a better decision that I imagined,” she says.

Hovell summarizes her first three years at East Tulsa Dodge and her plans for the future. “During the first year, I learned the situation and assessed things here. I listened to people. Things needed to be tackled and improvements needed to be made. Our management and staff became familiar with my philosophy and vision. We worked hard, and the result was that DaimlerChrysler Motors awarded us the 5-Star Dealership Award.”

She adds, “The changes are taking hold. Our customer base sees what we are doing and that our performance level will foster the ability to grow and become more cost effective. We are preparing for progress.”

Hovell explains that East Tulsa Dodge is a full line sales and service Dodge and Sprinter franchise with new Dodge, Sprinter, and Cargo vehicles as well as certified and pre-owned cars and trucks. The technicians are both DaimlerChrysler factory trained and ASE certified with a professional and courteous support staff. East Tulsa Dodge stocks a full line of genuine Mopar parts and accessories.

Hovell says, “Our 2004 slogan is The Future is Now,” adding, “Come in, come see, and take a demo in the exciting new Durango. Experience Dodge’s return to the rear wheel drive Dodge Magnum with a Hemi V-8 engine. Or see our Ram and Dakota trucks, the award-wining Stratus, or the economical Neon. We have a lot of surprises for our customers.”

Updated 08-26-2004

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