Jason Puga

Jason Puga wound up in the auto industry after he missed his UCLA law school interview 14 years ago.

He’s general manager of Land Rover San Diego and has a minority stake in the store, which is majority owned by Kuni Automotive Group.

Puga joined Land Rover San Diego in 2011 when its 225 unit sales ranked the store No. 35 of 166 Land Rover dealerships nationwide. Last year, it climbed to No. 9 with 624 unit sales. Puga predicts sales will rise to 695 this year.

Puga entered the auto industry when he was accepted into the Ford College Graduate program. He was trained by Ford Motor Credit Co., moved to Utah for three years as a dealer services supervisor and eventually was promoted to dealer account manager in Fargo, N.D.

Volkswagen Credit lured him away in 2004 to work at its Los Angeles office, where he stayed for four years.

In 2008, the owner of Volkswagen Pasadena, a struggling store anxious to grow, hired Puga as a general sales manager. For the first six months, “50 percent of what I was taught worked,” Puga said. “I struggled.” But Puga helped the store concentrate on Internet marketing, which boosted sales.

Kuni approached him in 2011 about running the ailing Land Rover store. Puga accepted, noting “it was a little daunting,” considering the store was selling 10 new and six used vehicles a month, but was an ideal place to “show my skills.”

He installed updated customer relationship management technology and a transparent multipoint vehicle service inspection. Staff members were trained to cater to the store’s high-income Land Rover buyers. One simple change was getting salespeople out of their tennis shoes and cargo shorts and into dress shirts and slacks, Puga said.

He also set up a VIP program that offers special roadside assistance, pickup and delivery of vehicles for service and a concierge service to book a hotel, dinner reservations and even take care of dry cleaning.

Pepperdine University, The George L. Graziadio School of Business and Management