10 Questions: BMW dealer from Napa thrives on ‘challenging’ industry | Business

Hal Logan admitted that before he got into the automotive industry, “I never thought about being in the car business.”

After working in the publishing and media fields for many years, Logan went on to help build what would become AutoTrader.com.

“Once I began to learn about the challenges and opportunities in the auto industry, I was hooked,” said Logan.

About seven months ago Logan (who lives in Napa) opened the new BMW dealership in Fairfield.

“It is a truly fascinating business, intellectually and emotionally, (with) challenges that have engaged me for 20-plus years,” said the business owner. 

1. What was your first job?

Reporter at The Washington Post, in Washington, DC. I got there as a summer intern between my junior and senior years of college. I showed up two weeks after the break-in at the Watergate hotel.

I spent six years in the newsroom and it was absolutely exhilarating. I decided that I wanted to understand the business and I got an MBA at Stanford. I came back to the paper on the management side.

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2. If you could change one thing about the auto industry, what would it be?

I’d make it easier for people to buy cars. There’s no reason why purchasing a car should be an unpleasant experience that takes hours of your time, requires you to meet with three or four people at a dealership, and leave you wondering whether you got a fair price. As an industry, we need to do better.

3. Who do you most admire in the business world?

I admire innovators, people who create something of real value where there was nothing before. People like John Johnson, the founder of Ebony and Jet magazines, Steve Jobs of Apple Computer, and, in my industry, Bob Hollenshead, the founder of BuyBook Technologies, the first company to offer guaranteed prices for cars over the Internet.

4. What kind of BMW do you drive?

I never know at any given moment. In today’s world with inventory so short, it really is whatever is available. I get to experience the full range of the BMW line-up. We have the privilege of selling some great cars.

5. What’s your favorite BMW model?

Years ago, I had a 1976 BMW 2002. It was orange. I just loved that car. I got it when I was so young; (it’s) had a special place for me.

6. What’s some new car technology that we can expect to see in the coming years?

There are cars coming out that actually change colors. In different light and weather conditions, the car will transform into different colors. Of course, it’s (from) BMW. It will be out in 2022.

7. What is the biggest challenge the auto industry has faced?

Our industry is facing a large number of huge challenges right now. The Internet has changed the way people buy cars. The electric vehicle revolution is fundamentally changing the technology in the cars they buy. Modern infotainment systems are changing the intimate relationship between vehicles and their drivers.

All of these changes are combining to transform vehicle ownership from a mechanically-oriented, utilitarian experience to an engaged, interactive one. That transformation will challenge everyone in this industry, from manufacturers to dealers to anyone else who touches our customers.

8. What’s on your to-do list?

Finishing a project I started a year ago. I’m trying to identify schools that do a great job of educating students from highly segregated, high-poverty environments, figure out how they’re succeeding, when so many other schools are failing at that task, and understand whether their success models can be scaled to serve millions of children.

9. What is one thing you hope to accomplish in your lifetime that you haven’t yet?

To write the great American novel.

10. What’s something people might be surprised to know about you?

I used to play the trumpet in a jazz band. We weren’t very good, but we truly loved the music, and entertaining an audience.

BMW of Fairfield is located at 2855 Auto Mall Parkway in Fairfield, Calif., 94533.