It's quite an accomplishment to be the world's top seller of any product in a single year. Florida's JM Lexus dealership has done that ... and done that ... and done that again.
The Margate, Fla.-based dealership has sold more new Lexus vehicles than any other store worldwide for 22 years in a row. Last year, it widened its lead over its closest rival to another record, outselling No. 2 by 1,136 vehicles. JM Lexus sold 5,974 new vehicles last year and expects to top 7,000 this year, close to its pre-recession peak.
So how does the privately owned dealership keep its edge year after year amid stiff competition?
Managers, customers and rivals point to a culture of continuous improvement in treating people right. The store keeps raising standards to satisfy customers, called guests, and to develop employees, called associates. That translates into details such as leather massage chairs and a 9-hole putting green for drivers waiting for an oil change, plus a doctor on premises for employees to receive preventive care.
"Our mentality here is, 'If it ain't broke, break it,' " said Jim Dunn, JM Lexus vice president and general manager. "Yesterday's methods may be outdated today, so we have to continuously re-tool."
A new sales process that started two years ago illustrates the approach. A study had found that the average time to close a sale at the store was 3.5 hours, and managers set a goal to slash that time.
They separated the sales process into two steps to ease tensions over price that are typical between buyer and seller. Now, a "product specialist" first works with the customer to provide information and help them define their product needs. The specialist gets paid a salary, not a sales commission. Next, with those needs defined, a "sales manager" works out the price and financing and finishes the transaction.
That two-step process has helped knock one hour off the average time to close a sale, said Dunn.
The information-first approach wowed Jean Hoerber, a retired school teacher living in Boca Raton, Fla. She and her husband first turned to JM Lexus at least seven years ago on the recommendation of a friend. They've just signed on for their third Lexus from the store, impressed with its "fabulous" customer service.
"The man who showed the features of the car to my husband, he was willing to spend as much time as possible ... and we were still out in two hours," said Hoerber of their latest deal. "Later, when we couldn't program the garage door opener, they came to the house and did it for us."
Rivals also tip their hat to JM's focus on service.
The dealership has "good people" and an "outstanding store culture," said Marc Cannon, spokesman for AutoNation, the country's largest dealership chain. "You can see it and feel it, as an employee and as a customer."
The people-based culture stems directly from the late Jim Moran, founder of Deerfield Beach, Fla.-based JM Family Enterprises, which also handles Toyota distribution in five Southeastern states. The entrepreneur valued his reputation in the community, and "he treated us as family," said Dunn.
Its sales strong, JM Lexus now employs about 400 people at its locales in Margate and Coconut Creek, Fla., selling new and used Lexus vehicles, servicing them, and offering additional programs such as customizing cars and trucks of any brand with flashy rims, specialty paint or vinyl wraps.
To build goodwill in the community, the dealership also hosts meetings of local chambers of commerce and nonprofit groups, sometimes welcoming 300 people for events at its showroom or conference rooms.
That's a long way from the store's opening in 1989 and the 880 new Lexus vehicles it sold in its first full year in business.
But the dealership won't rest on its laurels. In the past six years, it's moved up from No. 7 to No. 2 worldwide in sales of certified pre-owned Lexus vehicles, said Craig Martinez, general sales manager.
"We're shooting for that No. 1 crown too," said Martinez, "and we're getting there."
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