Gail Faulkner knew nothing about the auto industry.
But when her husband Hank passed away in 2003, it was his dying wish that his beloved Faulkner Automotive Group – a family business since 1935 – continued.
While grieving the loss of Hank, Faulkner took the reins as CEO of the organization, forming an advisory board to assist her in this unprecedented new role.
During her tenure, Faulkner Automotive Group expanded from 700 employees to nearly 2,000, and currently boasts dealership locations in Feasterville, Lancaster, Harrisburg, Philadelphia and more.
On the heels of her retirement in 2019, Faulkner was honored by Automotive News as one of the Leading Women in the North American Auto Industry. This prestigious award is given every five years to 100 women.
“It was an incredible honor,” Faulkner said of the recognition. “I had just recently retired, so it was just a wonderful culmination to a lot of time, a lot of years in the auto business. It was thrilling, but I am very mindful that for me, this was a group effort. This was not about me as it was about the Faulkner team.”
Although an in-person awards ceremony set for Nov. 9 in Detroit was canceled due to COVID-19, Faulkner and her 99 peers enjoyed a virtual event.
“They’re from all manner of the automobile industry,” she said. “It might be the head of Lyft, executives in different aspects of the automobile industry. There were only a handful of dealers.”
This year, Faulkner’s son Harry took over as president of the company. He praised his mother for her hard work and dedication.
“She cared so much for everyone who made the decision to be part of the Faulkner Automotive family,” he said. “Though she was CEO, she always said it stood for Chief Emotional Officer. That love played an integral role in the growth of our company.”
He also congratulated her on the coveted Automotive News honor.
“I hope she realizes that her story is an epic tale of leadership, love, service and people,” Harry said. “On behalf of the entire Faulkner Automotive family, congratulations, Mom. We’re so very proud of you.”
For Faulkner, it’s with pride that she passes the family torch to Harry – something that Hank would’ve wanted.
“It’s wonderful,” she said. “It was this dying man’s wish that it would stay on and it is. For all intents and purposes, I think it’s healthy and will continue to thrive under this new leadership group. They have a lot of energy and a lot of enthusiasm.”
Faulkner is the first to admit that she didn’t have to claw her way to the top. But she understands this isn’t the case for most women fighting to climb the ladder, and offered some words of encouragement.
“The world is changing and I think women are impacting much more heavily than they were before,” she said. “When I was growing up, you were either a teacher or a nurse, and that really has changed.”
Faulkner holds a B.S. in secondary education from Kutztown State College, and an M.A. in English from Lehigh University.
Samantha Bambino can be reached at email@example.com