Trudy Higginbotham Moody comes by her interest in car dealerships naturally. She grew up working at dealerships in New Smyrna Beach, Fla., owned by her father, Dennis Higginbotham.
Moody started out with menial cleaning jobs and answering the telephone before she graduated to tasks like delivering parts when she was old enough to have a driver’s license. She worked organizing the parts department, managing the loaner fleet for the body shop, writing service, and selling cars before she went into managing sales and finances.
“I grew up doing all the different positions,” Moody said. “I loved it.”
Moody got a degree in psychology at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, and then went to a one-year advanced degree program offered by the National Automotive Dealers Association. That program prepared her well for what has turned into a series of success stories that include the family purchasing the Mercedes-Benz dealership in Jackson, and most recently opening a new Mercedes-Benz dealership near Memphis in Collierville, Tenn.
Moody was general manager of her dad’s Mercedes-Benz dealership in Daytona Beach, Fla., for a number of years. After the family sold their group of dealerships to Sonic Automotive, she stayed as manager for several years.
“That was a great experience for me,” Moody said. “I was on my own, not associated with my father. But at the same time, I wanted to get back into business with my dad, and specifically with a Mercedes-Benz dealership. After searching and searching, we found a Mercedes-Benz in Jackson that we purchased from the Blackwell family, which had owned it a long time.”
They bought that dealership in 2001, and Moody and her husband moved to Jackson about five years later. That came right before the recession that could have been had a major impact on sales. But the family had purchased a property two doors down and opened a separate dealership for Porsche, smart Car and pre-owned vehicles.
“That turned out to be a really great move for us because when the economy did get tough, with that extra space for pre-owned cars, we were able to stock a lower-priced inventory,” she said. “Customers who previously might have been purchasing a two-year-old Mercedes might have to buy a four-year-old Mercedes. We were actually able to increase sales during the downturn.
“We had a plan, thought it would work, and it is great to see that it did. We didn’t have to lay off anyone. Since then, we have kept the business going, and have picked up more pre-owned Mercedes’ vehicles to stock a larger selection of less expensive, luxury pre-owned cars.”
Moody said she has never faced discrimination in the business due to being a woman. While it used to be that women were rare in car sales, that is changing. Currently she has three female sales people who are very successful.
Instead of selling cars, Moody works to manage their people, assets and processes.
“I don’t think it matters if you are a woman,” she said. “I’m real competitive. My goal always to been to be not just the best female Mercedes dealer, but the best Mercedes dealer. We’ve always been very successful. Whether you are a man or woman, you get respect if you are successful and do business the right way. We continually win the Best of the Best Award from Mercedes, which goes to the top 30 dealers in the country. With Porsche, we have consistently won their Premier Dealer Award, which recognizes the top 20 dealers in the country.”
Moody is also excited about being chosen to expand Mercedes-Benz in the Memphis market. The dealership at 4651 S. Houston Levee Road located at Carriage Crossing in Collierville, Tenn, that opened recently will service north Mississippi counties, as well as the Memphis area. The new dealership has a service and parts department with 27 service bays, a 16,000-square-foot showroom with a lounge area, gift shop, children’s playroom, a full-service automated carwash and even a fitness center.
The family also owns the Mercedes-Benz and BMW dealership in Myrtle Beach, S.C., which is run by her brother, Wallis Higginbotham.
Moody manages the two car dealerships in addition to putting a priority on time with her three daughters who are in preschool. The family lives out in the country, and enjoys bird dogs, quail hunting and other outdoor pursuits.
Moody’s husband, Ed Moody, has also seen considerable business success. He is vice president for product development for Costa and Native sunglasses. He was one of the original founders of Costa sunglasses.
“It has grown tremendously,” Trudy said. “It sold to a public company and then another large company, Essilor, purchased them. This acquisition should give them the resources to grow exponentially from here.”
The Moody family and the dealership have been very involved with Mississippi Animal Rescue League, and with supporting Batson Children’s Hospital.