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GM Dealer Kini Sanborn Sobon: A Driving Force in Leadership

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Sanborn Chevrolet in Lodi is celebrating its 53rd year, and Kini Sobon couldn’t be happier to celebrate as she leads the organization into the future. While growing up, Kini occasionally helped around her father’s thriving automotive dealership. Many years later, when she had made a name for herself in the luxury hospitality industry in places such as Napa, Barcelona and Seattle, it became evident her professional expertise was the ideal match for the changing needs of her family’s dealership.

“In 2017, my father, Richard Sanborn, was concerned because the dealership was not performing to GM’s expectations and he was not able to have his executive manager at the time accepted onto the GM Franchise Addendum. GM must approve you to become the Dealer, a process which is very exacting,” she explained. Kini shared with her father that there were numerous opportunities she was seeing from running major hotels and working for large investment groups that were needed for the dealership to excel in sales and marketing. She offered to work with the team one weekend a month to assist them with these items.

Her Decision
Shortly afterward came the life-changing question that planted the seed for what she would decide to do next. Her father asked, “Well, if you can run big businesses like this for other investment groups, why aren’t you running our family business?” After careful consideration, in 2018, she decided to join the family business and undertake the process of modernizing the dealership. This was the beginning of her journey to becoming an authorized GM Chevrolet Dealer herself.

Despite having been only on the periphery of the dealership growing up, Kini ultimately knew she would learn whatever was needed to accomplish GM’s host of requirements. After five and a half years of intense performance, scrutiny, background checks, a year of Dealer Successor Schooling and a gauntlet of other challenges, Kini was approved as a GM Dealer.

Respect for Experience
Kini’s father, Richard Sanborn, who turned 90 in May, still works at the dealership four days a week. “His wisdom is priceless,” she said. “His 76 years of experience have imbued him with a unique, almost clairvoyant, perception of all that is happening—or that will happen.” At age 14, he got his start in the business pushing a broom in the parts department at another dealership. After working his way up to parts manager, sales manager, then general manager, GM approached him about opening his own dealership. Richard jumped at the chance and Sanborn Chevrolet was born. “My father has seen the economy go through many ups and downs and with his hard work has been able to prevail through them all,” Kini shared. “He makes very accurate predictions, and I have learned there is a lot of weight behind his words and to take heed. I am so grateful to have his support behind me.”

Business Ethics
As a woman in a historically male-dominated industry, Kini doesn’t view her success or anyone else’s through the lens of gender. “Building respect for what you do and doing it well is what really matters. Having integrity, honesty and transparent communication with our customers and staff are what make up the foundation for all we do,” she continued. “Being in the automotive industry, our leadership promotes a culture of safety first, along with learning and listening to one another.

“Providing for the community is really important to us,” Kini affirmed. For the past two years, she and her team have rolled up their sleeves and undertaken a major remodel of the dealership. “We’ve had the honor of serving generation upon generation of families in the Central Valley, and our plan is to be here for another 50+ years.” Likewise, there are multiple generations involved in their family business. “Richlyn Tarrar is our business office and HR manager and has been with the company for more than 10 years,” she said. “Together, our family would like to thank our customers for all their support and invite the community in to see the wonderful updates we have made.”

A big believer in giving customers exactly what they want, when they want it, Kini and her positive impact in the business was noticed by the other Chevrolet Dealers from Sacramento to Modesto. This recognition resulted in the regional Dealers electing Kini as the president of their GM LMA, or local marketing association, for 2024. “I feel very honored the dealers selected me to be their advertising voice for the group,” she said. “It is really nice to be at the table with your competitors, who are also dear friends and who share common goals.”

“I am an advocate of change and trying new things,” Kini said. “Becoming stagnant can be a business’s worst enemy.” She sees GM leading the way toward such change and she feels especially excited for the next wave of products Chevrolet has to offer.

From the new technology in the Silverado and the all-new EV Blazer that’s out now, to the EV Equinox and EV Silverado debuting in early summer, she affirmed, “GM is at the forefront of innovation and the new EVs are a game changer. Once people drive them, they will fall in love with them. GM is doing a phenomenal job and we’re very excited to be a part of the brand and to share them with our community.”

Visit Sanborn Chevrolet, 1210 S. Cherokee Lane, Lodi, California, 209-334-5000, and for information about the dealership and new offerings.