A Resource Portal for Automotive Dealers, Industry Vendors and Advertising Agencies

AdAgencyOnline.Net To Review The Higher Gear Group For Automotive Advertising Agencies In An Interview With Their CEO Robert Gruen

Automotive advertising agencies rely on AdAgencyOnline.Net, a free automotive advertising resource / networking portal, to help them find and review cutting edge automotive advertising applications.  The automotive advertising social networking site features a blog talk radio station — WAAOL, All Automotive Advertising News All The Time — hosted by Philip Zelinger, the President of Ad Agency Online, L.L.C.  Philip conducts interviews with auto industry insiders who share their latest automotive advertising applications with his online audience of automotive advertising decision makers.  This week his Automotive Advertising Experts show, scheduled to air Friday, August 27th, 2010 from 12:00 Noon EST to 12:30 PM EST, will include an  interview with Robert Gruen, the founder and CEO of The Higher Gear Group.

The Higher Gear Group has been a recommended vendor for the affiliated automotive advertising agencies of Ad Agency Online for many years, however, according to Philip recent news about enhancements to their suite of products demanded an update on their platform for his auto dealer clients.  “I have always valued people over product and price so when a trusted friend, Jay Mattingly, called to tell me that he had returned to The Higher Gear Group as their Vice President after a brief separation I was all ears.  I have always recognized The Higher Gear Group as a user friendly CRM application with intuitive processes that fit seamlessly into the sales systems at most auto dealerships.  However, Jay quickly brought me up to speed as to why he was excited to get back on The Higher Gear Group Team with their enhanced platform defined under their new Overdrive banner which includes showroom, customer relationship and lead management systems.”

“Jay’s excitement over the new products and services that had been added to their simple to use CRM — Done Right application included his description of their integrated eZDesk system defined by their slogan — Multipayment Desking Made Easy, their eZBDC — Follow Up Made Easy and other products with descriptive names including their MyGarage — Be-back system, Super form — All-in-one lead generation, Bargain Button — Interactive Offer System and feature functions like their One-click Navigation, Mobile Site solution, Social Media Integration, High-indexing Search Technology, Affiliate Tracking, Dealer Care Proactive Site Maintenance and their Automated Credit Application Integration.  Once Jay caught his breath, we both realized that this was no longer The Higher Gear Group that we had previously reviewed.  We agreed that the only one capable of connecting what was to what is and what will be at The Higher Gear Group was their founder, Robert Gruen, so I invited him to join me on our Automotive Advertising Experts blog talk radio show to talk about their next generation of automotive advertising solutions.”          

 About Robert Gruen, Founder and CEO of The Higher Gear Group

Mr. Gruen, Founder and CEO of THGG, has grown the Company to almost 1,000 dealerships and supporting, training and incorporating over 25,000 users since its 1998 incorporation. Mr. Gruen is an industry leader in the automotive dealer services & software space and has been featured in numerous trade publications and won a number of industry awards including, Auto Dealer Monthly Dealers Choice Award and Dealer Magazine  #1 CRM Award.  The latest version of Higher Gear Software called OVERDRIVE is the result of almost 15 years experience in this segment.  The addition of Websites, Call Center, Trade Evaluation, Call Tracking, Automated Desking, and a continuation of building the most robust tool available to Automotive retail has kept The Higher Gear Group on the leading edge. 

Prior to founding THGG, Mr. Gruen worked in the automotive retail industry where he learned the business from the inside out and was the top salesman at the AutoBarn in Evanston, Illinois. Prior to that, he was the General Manager and Partner at Chicago Cycle Center (“CCC”). At CCC, Mr. Gruen led and oversaw the fastest growing franchise for Bombardier, the Canadian global transportation company, increasing sales 300% while reducing the company staff from 35 to 10. Mr. Gruen started his career at the Chicago Board Options Exchange while attending school at the University of Illinois-Chicago.

About The Higher Gear Group

The Higher Gear Group, an industry-leading provider of software and services to the automotive industry, today announced the completion of an investment in the company by an affiliate of H.I.G. Capital, a global private investment firm with more than $7.5 billion of equity under management. Founded in 1998 by industry veteran Robert C. Gruen, The Higher Gear Group provides customer relationship management (CRM) software and related services to automotive dealers throughout the United States, Mexico and Canada. The Company’s software tracks the entire lifecycle of retail automotive customers, facilitating the management, retention and conversion of customer leads at dealerships.

Based in Schaumburg, Illinois, The Higher Gear Group was a pioneer in the automotive CRM sector, developing custom software solutions specifically tailored to address the unique process of selling cars, trucks and other motor vehicles at retail dealerships. The Company’s leading software was rapidly adopted throughout North America by dealerships seeking to realize a higher return on their significant investments in sales and marketing. In the decade between 1999 and 2009, the Company grew its customer base at an average annual rate of 60%, outpacing its competition and establishing itself as the leading independent player in the industry. The Higher Gear Group currently serves customers in 47 of 50 states. 

H.I.G.’s investment in The Higher Gear Group will help the Company expand its product offering and support the ongoing growth of its dealer base. H.I.G.’s investment represents the first outside investment ever received by the Company, and positions the Company to build on its historical success. With the completion of this financing, Robert Gruen is resuming his role as President & CEO of the Company.

About the transaction, Gruen commented: “We are eager to work with the team at H.I.G. Capital, who has significant experience in growing service oriented businesses and can help us reach new heights. H.I.G.’s investment in our organization recognizes our market leadership and makes us stronger than ever.”

“As one of the largest and most successful CRM providers to the automotive industry, The Higher Gear Group has a long history of success. We are excited to join with Robert Gruen and his team,” said Neil Tuch, Managing Director of H.I.G. “The Company has an attractive customer base of leading dealerships and is well-positioned to capitalize on a number of unique growth opportunities. After two challenging years in the automotive sector, the industry is poised for significant recovery. As new car sales volumes continue to climb, we expect dealerships to make increasing investments in technology-based solutions that improve sales efficiency and profitability. We share management’s excitement about the future and look forward to working with them to extend their market leading position.”

For more information, please refer to the Company’s website at www.highergear.com, or contact Robert C. Gruen: rgruen@highergear.com or (847) 241-8282.

About H.I.G.

Capital H.I.G. Capital is a leading global private equity investment firm with more than $7.5 billion of equity capital under management. Based in Miami, and with offices in Atlanta, Boston, New York, and San Francisco in the U.S., as well as affiliate offices in London, Hamburg and Paris in Europe, H.I.G. specializes in providing capital to small and medium-sized companies with attractive growth potential. H.I.G. invests in management-led buyouts and recapitalizations of profitable and well-managed manufacturing or service businesses. Since its founding in 1993, H.I.G. has invested in and managed more than 200 companies worldwide. The firm’s current portfolio includes more than 50 companies with combined revenues in excess of $8 billion. For more information, please refer to the H.I.G. website at www.higcapital.com.

About Philip Zelinger

Philip Zelinger is the President of Ad Agency Online, LLC and host of AdAgencyOnline.Net. He invested 25 years as a General Manager and Dealer Principal followed by his last ten years in the automotive advertising industry learning from the teams that he built so he can now presume to teach on forums like AdAgencyOnline.Net.  His role as a “Dealer Coach” is enhanced by his hosting a nationally recognized auto industry social networking portal and blog talk radio station – WAAOL, All Automotive Advertising News All The Time.  As the author of two books on the auto industry, including “How To Sell A Car – a Career Guide to The Automobile Industry,” he is a recognized authority on market trends and developing technologies with the responsibility of selecting key vendors and applications for his dealer clients as well as forming strategic partnerships for his vendor clients to leverage their shared resources to help them bring their products and services to market.

About AdAgencyOnline.Net and Ad Agency Online, L.L.C.

AdAgencyOnline.Net reviews automotive advertising vendors and new technologies on several blog talk radio shows in addition to the Lunch With Phil Discussing Automotive Advertising.  Other shows include “Lunch With Ralph Discussing Automotive Advertising” and “Automotive Advertising Experts.”  The shows attract automotive advertising agencies, auto dealers, auto industry vendors and O.E.M. representatives that listen to WAAOL to find vendors, applications and technologies to maximize the R.O.I. for their automotive advertising dollars.

AAOL is a national network of independent affiliated automotive advertising agencies linked by an online communication / distribution system developed by Philip Zelinger.  The proprietary operating system that powers AAOL was designed to reduce fixed and semi-variable expenses for full service automotive advertising agencies.  The developing technologies that enhanced the performance of the independent automotive advertising agencies linked by AAOL has served as the role model for the solutions suggested on AdAgencyOnline.Net and represented by AAOL to their affiliated automotive advertising agencies when serving their auto dealer clients.

Ad Agency Online L.L.C is focused on discovering and representing new automotive advertising vendors not yet recognized by the mainstream automotive advertising industry. Automotive advertising vendors represented by AAOL include; ronsmap.com, DealerMouth, TeleTextSolutions, GetAutoAppraise, Argistics – AutoTransaXion, DealMaker.Com, CityTwist.Com, Bulldog Marketing Technologies, Kihon Media, CarFolks.Com, Ai Dealer, Laser Stream Video, and SiSTeR Technologies – Video CarLot; to name a few.

For more information on Philip Zelinger, Ad Agency Online, L.L.C., The Higher Gear Group or any of the vendor clients represented by Ad Agency Online contact Philip at 888-796-2228 or email him at pzads@bellsouth.net.  Automotive advertising vendors, automotive advertising agencies and auto dealers that would like to be considered as a “preferred automotive advertising vendor” on AdAgencyOnline.Net and/or to hire/join Ad Agency Online, L.L.C. to represent them can contact Philip Zelinger at https://adagencyonline.net.  To quote Philip Zelinger, “Help is only a click away!  After all, what are friends for!”  ###

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