JM Lexus in Margate, FL, has been the top-selling Lexus dealership in the U.S. for 16 years, reaching record sales of 7,786 new vehicles in 2006 and about 8,000 in 2007.
Ward's interviewed James Dunn, general manager and vice-president of the dealership which employs 414 people.
Ward's: When was JM Lexus founded?
Dunn: We were founded by Jim Moran, the head of JM Family Enterprises and the Toyota Southeast distributorship, in 1989, as a charter Lexus store. Mr. Moran, himself a former well-known Ford and Hudson dealer in Chicago, was a regular visitor to this store until his death last April at the age of 88.
Ward's: What is the size of JM Lexus?
Dunn: We occupy 130,000 square feet on three acres, including a collision repair shop. We're the largest Lexus dealership in the world.
Ward's: Across the street, you added a new facility. What's that?
Dunn: JM Lexus took over a former Dodge store there for our pre-owned vehicles and a new body shop. That building takes up 51,000 square feet and has a separate service center and dedicated sales and F&I forces. We believe we're the first Lexus dealership to go that route. (See related story on page 77.)
Ward's: How have sales gone at the certified store?
Dunn: We're averaging about 80 certified sales a month, but we would like being No. 1 in that, too, and are aiming to surpass the present leader, Sewell Lexus in Dallas.
Ward's: What is your customer base and how far away does it reach?
Dunn: We have about 31,000 cars in operation in Broward and Palm Beach counties, but thanks to our website, jmlexus.com, we deliver new cars to folks who live as far away as Chicago when they come down to southern Florida for a vacation. The Moran name as our owner resonates with a lot of Midwesterners from his days in Chicago.
Ward's: Your store always seems to be innovating customer attractions. What's the latest?
Dunn: Four massage chairs, in addition to our Starbucks coffee shop and two putting greens. There are two customer lounges where lots of the retirees come to visit, plus a library.
Ward's: How is jmlexus.com doing?
Dunn: What with its dedicated staff, 15 associates on new units and 5 on pre-owned, we think it's the largest online group in the country. About 200 deliveries a month stem from the web.
Ward's: Se habla Espanol?
Dunn: You bet. JMlexus.com runs a hyperlink to the Hispanic community. We advertise on Telemundo and most of our 65 new-vehicle and 31 pre-owned associates are bilingual.
Ward's: What is going on in finance and insurance?
Dunn: There was no F&I department under the previous general manager. We've changed that and now have 13 F&I managers here and four in pre-owned. Our CSI (customer satisfaction index) has gone up with dedicated F&I staff. Vehicle sales people should not be handling F&I.
Ward's: What is the leasing percentage — and through whom?
Dunn: About half of the new vehicles are leased, mostly with Lexus Financial Services.
Ward's: What is your background?
Dunn: I'm 57 and became JM Lexus general manager, August 8, 2005, which was Mr. Moran's 87th birthday. I'm also a native of Chicago and started my dealership career as finance manager at a Chicago Heights Chevrolet dealership.
Later I worked at a Tom Wood store in Indianapolis and at a Germain Brothers store in Naples, FL, the same guys who have Lexus and Toyota stores in Columbus, OH.
Ward's: The sluggish Florida economy was cited by a neighbor of yours, AutoNation Inc. in Fort Lauderdale, FL, as a drag on its new-vehicle sales. How have you coped?
Dunn: Our thrust into pre-owned is one response, but there has been little or no volume growth in the past years and don't look for a Florida turnaround until 2009.
Lexus is planning product responses to appeal to younger buyers, like the new IS F 8-cylinder sedan due at year-end. The LF super-sedan is en route from Japan, as well. They have a great lineup, but have to get the story out on the values of owning Lexus vehicles.