“You Don’t Have to be a Car Nut to be in the Car Industry”: Savannah Sprague’s Story

When she was in high school, Savannah Sprague wasn’t quite sure what she wanted to do as a career.

But Savannah did have a direction (business) and a spot on the collegiate team (softball) and a position (outfielder), which all led the student from Auburn, Mich., straight to Northwood University.

And that led her straight to Garber’s internship program this past summer.

Now in her junior year at Northwood, Savannah is pursuing a Bachelor of Business Administration and Master of Business Administration degree simultaneously as part of Northwood’s four-year accelerated degree program. Her program track is Automotive Marketing and Management.

But unlike many of her peers, she didn’t start out as a car connoisseur. She had no professional background in the automotive industry. No family members who work at dealerships. No long history of loving cars since she was a little girl.

It was the plentiful career opportunities in the automotive industry that piqued her interest.

“I got to talk to automotive professors and other faculty on my tour of Northwood, and they said automotive is such a good, growing industry—especially for women—and there’s a lot of employment after you graduate,” Savannah explained. “So I’ve stuck with it, and I like it.”

And sometimes, that’s all you need to find your future.

When Opportunity Knocks…

As part of the accelerated degree program at Northwood, each student within the program needs to complete an internship.

Savannah wondered where she should start to secure the required internship spot.

Luckily, she didn’t have to search far. In fact, she didn’t have to search at all. The opportunity knocked on the door of her Dealership Accounting class.

“Ty [Ty Mier, Controller at Garber Management Group in Saginaw, Michigan] gave a presentation to our class,” Savannah explained. “I ended up reaching out to him and said I’m looking for an internship this summer. He responded right away.”

It was Garber’s proximity to home and school that initially intrigued Savannah.

“The internships that other kids did were out of state, but I’m a big homebody, and I wanted to be closer to home,” she said. “So that’s how it started.”

Not only did Savannah save money on gas and living expenses by interning close to home at Garber – she earned money, too. Garber interns truly get the real-world experience: from the hours (generally Monday through Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.) to getting a paycheck.

But even more importantly, Garber interns grow from the hands-on learning.

Finding the Right Fit

While Savannah had found her career path in the automotive industry, she didn’t know what exactly she wanted to do within the industry.

That’s the beauty of Garber’s internship program, she said. You get to a hands-on, boots-on-the-ground introduction to numerous aspects of the automotive industry so you can identify what you like best.

“I knew I wanted an in-person internship that was rotational,” Savannah said. “When I reached out to Ty, I knew I wanted to intern at Garber because I learned it was rotational. I wanted to find out what I was interested in. At Garber, you get time with the dealerships and marketing side of things. It’s like three internships in one.”

Between May and August 2023, Savannah and her fellow interns were on a three-part rotational system. They each split up, spending individual time interning as part of:

  • A Garber dealership
  • The Digital Marketing team at Garber Management Group (GMG) in Saginaw, Mich.
  • The Payables team at GMG

Savannah began her internship rotation at the Garber Chevrolet Midland dealership.

“I really liked starting at the dealership because I got to shadow every department and be a part of the entire process,” she said. “I have a full notebook of lessons I learned while I was there.”

She learned how the dealership process helped contribute to the overall automotive marketing experience.

“Seeing every part of the dealership and knowing—even if I don’t end up working directly in a dealership—what they do is helpful to automotive marketing because I now know exactly what is going on and respect and understand everyone’s point of view,” she said. “By understanding the dealership, you can market better on their behalf.”

Savannah’s next rotation placed her as part of the Digital Marketing team, where she helped add value and create tangible results.

“As part of my rotation with Digital, I became the content editor, so I edited all TikTok, YouTube and Facebook videos, and after I edited the videos, I would help post them,” she explained. “I learned on the spot how to edit the videos and how to schedule social media posts. They also trusted me with a couple of mini projects to come up with new content ideas. I had six pages of new ideas the team could use. It was awesome to really contribute to the team and learn and grow.”

Because the Digital team aligned well with her skills and interests, Garber adjusted the internship rotations to best fit Savannah’s goals. Rather than continue on as planned with the Payables team, she stayed with the Digital Marketing team for her third and final rotation.

“I was treated so well at Garber,” Savannah said. “Everyone was very kind. They made sure to go out of their way to make sure I was part of every step of the car buying process. They trusted me and valued me for me.”


The Three Cs

During the last week of the internship, all three summer interns went out to lunch with Ty, who led the internship program, and Dick Garber.

Savannah was grateful for the time with our company’s president and controller.

“It just says what a great company Garber because they are taking the time out of their busy days to give time to you to make you feel important and ask questions,” she said. “We got to ask Mr. Garber questions and I wrote down his advice.”

So what advice did Savannah receive from Mr. Garber?

“He said to be confident,” she said. “He said that in anything you do, working hard and putting forth effort is essential to success…that it’s important to be honest and follow the 3 Cs: Character. Competence. Connection.”

Savannah said she hasn’t just grown as a student thanks to her internship at Garber. She’s grown as a person, as well.

“At Garber, I felt valid and important,” she said. “ I’ve learned lessons that will help me in the classroom and understand the real world, too. A lot of kids come from dealership families. I didn’t come from that, but now I have more of a car background and will be more comfortable because I understand more. I’ve grown at Garber because I can be more confident in the car industry. I’ve learned you don’t have to be car nut to be in the car industry.”

Fast Five

Favorite animal? Dog

Favorite food? Mac & cheese

How would you describe your internship at Garber? Eye-opening.

Favorite lesson you learned at Garber? There’s always enough ice cream in the freezer at the Midland dealership Parts department for me to eat. On my last day, I brought a bunch of Drumsticks ice cream cones because I ate so many over the summer. 😊 In all seriousness, another important lesson I learned is to be confident and trust what you’re doing because you have people to back you up and support you at Garber.

Piece of advice for future Garber interns? I highly recommend interning at Garber because they are very open about learning, improving and they are very focused on us as interns. Everyone at Garber is trying to help us as interns and people, and that’s what I really liked about Garber. They valued your interests and give you more time in what you’re interested in. It’s a great company.

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Lindsay Henry

Lindsay Henry

Lindsay is the Digital Communications Manager for Garber Automotive Group.

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