Ticket to Ride: Pat Kroneberger’s Sports Mentality is Reflected in Auto Game

PHOENIX BUSINESS JOURNAL – Pat Krone­berger is making the most out of a move to Arizona — one that came as a surprise a year ago.After Utah-based Larry H. Miller Dealerships purchased seven auto dealers in 2013, the company asked Krone­berger to move to Phoenix to serve more efficiently as senior vice president of operations for Arizona and California. He now oversees nine Miller dealerships in Phoenix, four in Tucson and one in California.

Since moving here, Krone­berger, his wife and their two children have enjoyed exploring the Grand Canyon State. He has taken his family fishing in Sedona and to a Nascar race at Phoenix International Raceway. They have an ever-growing list of things they want to do, including making a trip to Southern Arizona to see the town that inspired his favorite movie.

“I can’t wait to go to Tombstone. My wife wants nothing to do with it, and my kids can’t wait,” Krone­berger said. “We are really getting to know Arizona.”

Aside from doing a good impression of Kurt Russell, who played Wyatt Earp in “Tombstone,” he is learning about the Valley’s auto market.

“It has been extremely busy,” he said. “Sales are up. Things right now are going very well.”

The company is privately owned and does not divulge sales or employee numbers. But he said things continue to improve for the company and for the auto industry in general, which came upon hard times during the Great Recession.

Krone­berger got into the car business after he attended Colorado State University. Both of his older brothers were finance managers at auto dealerships in Colorado, and he wanted to follow suit. He got a job with General Motors Acceptance Corp. in Denver. He started in collections and repossession work, but soon became a finance manager.

Krone­berger’s brothers also stayed in the auto industry: One owns a used car lot in Fort Collins, Colorado, and the other recently retired from Larry H. Miller Dealerships.

Krone­berger said his 11-year-old son is a car nut who loves going to the large tent sales, but he wishes his dad would trade in his Dodge Ram for a sports car.

Krone­berger’s office is at the Larry H. Miller Dodge Ram dealership in Avon­dale. His walls are lined with signed photographs and jerseys, and his desk and tables sport an assortment of autographed balls and pucks.

His favorite item is the John Elway jersey that hangs behind his desk — not just because Krone­berger is a huge Broncos fan, but because he once worked at an auto dealership owned by Elway in Denver.

Sports is more than a hobby to Krone­berger, who played middle linebacker at CSU. He said the mind-set of a champion athlete is the same as that of a champion auto dealer.

“We are in a very competitive business,” he said. “We are always measuring ourselves against each other and against the competition.”

But he said the auto industry’s competitiveness can burn out employees. At Miller, there is a strong focus on employees and on the team aspect of the business to try to avoid that burnout. Each year, the company highlights individual successes by flying outstanding employees to the company’s headquarters in Salt Lake City and honoring them at an event at the Energy Solutions Arena, where the Utah Jazz play.

“It is very easy to operate in this company,” Krone­berger said. “Selling cars and parts, service and finance — yes, we do that, but it’s the people we interact with and it’s the lives that this company changes.”

Pat Kroneberger

Title: Senior vice president of operations for Arizona and California, Larry H. Miller Dealerships

Residence: Paradise Valley

Alma mater: Colorado State University

Favorite restaurant: Italian Grotto

Charity work: Homeward Bound

Current vehicle: Dodge Ram

Hobbies: Camping and skiing

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