Wilhite, who has held high-level positions at Hyundai, Volkswagen and Nissan, will direct all sales, marketing and product development for the San Francisco-based automotive publisher rep firm. He also joins the company's Board of Directors and will report to CEO Mitch Lowe. Most recently, he served as COO and the top U.S. executive of Hyundai North America before leaving last September.
"I've been spending time with Mitch and the team at Jumpstart over the past six months," Wilhite said. "My level of interest and enthusiasm grew with each meeting."
Wilhite arrives at Jumpstart while it undergoes what could be described as mid-growth spurt. The company has grown from 20 employees in 2004 to 90 today and is projected to have more than 120 in 2009. Revenue has climbed from less than $20 million in 2006 to $40 million in 2007 and a projected $60 million in 2008.
"The company has assembled a terrific group of talented, passionate people and is building an exciting culture of creativity, performance, accountability and fun," he said. "Jumpstart has a tremendous opportunity to leverage the strength and performance of its products and services to help automotive publishers and automotive marketers improve profitability while simultaneously improving the customer shopping experience. This will be fun."
Both comScore and Nielsen peg the company as having risen from 9th to consistently 5th and as high as 3rd during the past six months. This equates to growth of 4 million unique users to 7-8 million, Lowe said. Jumpstart is one of the more consistent sites in terms of month to month traffic (e.g., AOL and MSN swing very widely). The company has added 6 new publishers over the past year (CarSoup, USNews, Car & Driver, Road & Track, CarGurus, HybridCars), bringing the total to 11. Jumpstart works with 90% of OEM brands nationwide (large and small) including 750 local dealers nationwide and most of the top 100 megadealers.
Before joining Hyundai, Wilhite was VP of global marketing communications at Apple. As VP of marketing at Volkswagen, he developed the "Drivers Wanted" campaign and introduction of the new Beetle. Wilhite was also VP of marketing at Nissan North America, where he introduced Shift_ and later became senior VP of global marketing for Nissan and Infiniti.
"This is a massive win for Jumpstart," Lowe said. "Steve brings terrific leadership, marketing skills and unique, in-depth automotive expertise to the company. The timing is perfect as we position Jumpstart for dramatic growth as a new media consultancy that will provide leadership in online automotive advertising at every level from manufacturers to individual dealers. Moreover, we will become a media company involved in content creation, syndication and publisher service that further unites the auto sites within our family of publishers."
Jumpstart Automotive Media customers include automotive manufacturers, regional dealer associations and the top 100 automotive dealers. The portfolio of publishers includes NADAguides.com, Vehix, Consumer Guide Automotive, JD Power Autos, Shopping.com, CarandDriver.com, RoadandTrack.com, CarSoup.com, U.S.News.com, HybridCars and CarGurus.