For this installment of Dealerships in Depth, we spoke with Brett David, CEO of Prestige Imports and Lamborghini Miami.
When his father passed away in 2007, Brett David took over Prestige Imports at the tender age of 19! He built on the over 40 year reputation of the brand, taking the reins of one of South Florida’s most prestigious luxury car destinations and the leading Lamborghini dealership in the United States. Since taking over Brett has sold over a billion dollars of luxury automobiles and continues to expand the Prestige Imports business with brands such as Pagani, Karma and Lotus.
Q. What do you think is your greatest strength as an auto dealer?
A. I think Prestige Imports’ greatest strength is the legacy left by my father – he built and left us with an unbelievable foundation. Having a dealership in a place like South Florida, is a blessing on its own. It has been an amazing opportunity to work with brands and franchises that are so innovative and growing like Lamborghini, Lotus, Karma and Pagani. I think our greatest strength is our marketing opportunities and figuring out ways to come up with new unique and cutting-edge marketing concepts, using technology and luxury elements to surround our South Florida and international clients with what prestige imports is really about.
Q. What is your most significant accomplishment as an auto dealership/auto industry professional?
A. Taking over the dealership after my dad’s passing at the age of 19 years old was a very difficult hurdle to overcome and one that many people thought I would not be able to do. And, I certainly could not have done it alone. We all made it work, thanks to the incredible team that we have around us. Seven years later, we all miss him dearly, and just to come into work every day with a smile on my face, that in and of itself is an accomplishment, and again I have my incredible team to than for that. Another great accomplishment was being able to secure the Pagani franchise which was an unbelievable milestone that my father wanted to achieve but unfortunately the brand wasn’t able to be brought into the US at the time when my father was dealing with Mr. Pagani prior to his passing, so in a way, this is something I did for him.
Q. Can you share an anecdote that details one of the most rewarding moments in your career?
A. There have been a few very rewarding moments in my career, and I’d say my top one was being able to get behind the wheel of the Lamborghini Huracan Super Trofeo during the Super Trofeo series, and having an opportunity to take third place as my first enter into the auto cross racing circuit within Lamborghini. Being surrounded by all of our teammates and our family within the Lamborghini brand was incredible for me to be able to experience. The only person that was missing was my father who was the first individual to get me started and get me as excited about racing as I am; I truly have gasoline in my veins. I can also share the moment that we received our number 1 Audi dealership accolade after my father’s passing in January 2008. Nominating us to be the first Audi dealership in North America to ever deliver and sell over 2000 Audis was an incredible milestone for the team and it was just shy of 11 months after my father’s passing, that we were able to claim the number 1 spot.
Q. What distinguishes your dealership from other dealerships?
A. We believe in a statement that we learned from Ritz Carlton which is, “We are ladies and gentlemen serving ladies and gentlemen.” Dealerships and the automotive atmosphere are about to change in a very abrupt way — there’s a lot of business disruptors in the automotive sector. I think what distinguishes us from everyone else is our level of service. We truly believe in the consumer coming first and price actually comes secondary when coming in to purchase a car. The way a customer is handled and dealt with is the most important thing here at our dealership.
Q. What are the greatest challenges facing auto dealers right now and how is your company responding to those changes?
A. As I mentioned before I think there are a lot of disruptors in the automotive sector today, but one of the main ones is technology and automation that is eliminating the traditional touch points between the dealer and the buyer, or the buyer and the banks – that are all trying to eliminate or lessen the amount of time that the consumers actually need to come into the dealership. We are also facing massive challenges from consumers thinking that they can be their own auto dealers, and we are seeing the compression between wholesale pricing and retail pricing. When that gets compressed, dealership profitability is going to drop significantly. Historically, we always were able to focus on the service department, to pick up the slack, and bring people into the dealership. As technology grows and times go on, vehicles are becoming more robust, and are requiring less maintenance and fewer repairs, so we are also billing less service hours in the shop. Seeing those challenges as the compressed margins come, we have realized that we have separated ourselves from the regular dealerships by offering an impeccable service and experience, and not just making it about price. An experience that’s all about price reminds me of a Honda or a Toyota store, and that is the furthest thing from what Prestige Import is truly about. If you are in the market for an exotic brand, you deserve an exotic experience.
Q. How long have you been a client with MBAF? How has that relationship helped you through those challenges and otherwise helped you reach your goals as a dealer?
A. Our dealership has been with MBAF for as long as I know. Me being 31 years old with my first entrance into this business at 19, we had already been working with MBAF, and while I was still my father’s son I witnessed and watched my father’s interaction with the teammates and MBAF, and I loved seeing the response of how detail oriented they were. Just like any other business cycle, we have approached many difficult times — from the 2008 recession to other pops and bursts that have happened in the economic sector along with mergers and acquisitions when you’re buying and selling a dealership, which was my first experience when we sold the Number 1 Audi dealership for a record-breaking number. MBAF was there the whole time, guiding and making sure that those focuses were never lost and our game plan and goal was set in a proper direction. They really did help steer the ship during a lot of difficult times and I give them great respect. Mr. Ed Blum in particular, has been a dream to work with, and that man has so much knowledge in the automotive sector that I probably will never learn the things that he has forgot!
Q. For this particular edition, we are talking to dealers like yourself who have “inherited the family business” so-to-speak, can you discuss your thoughts on proper succession planning for family-run dealerships and how that coincides with the idea of building and/or leaving a legacy?
A. I think this is a very loaded question because a lot of dealers never want to do the inevitable or the most difficult thing, which is planning for disaster or planning for successorship. To be a car dealer you have to be a unique type of person and character and not everybody wants to spend time, money and focus on preparing for something that we think will never come. In my particular situation, I thought my father was superman and that he was immortal, so of course on the day that he passed, nothing was set up properly, although many different attorneys and accountants around us had requested my father to set things up in a proper manner. I was plagued with having the initial 3-4 years of my life after his passing, with redeveloping and re-planning what needed to be done for my sister, my mother and my family. Dealers need to take a moment and think early on about their succession plans and spend money now to make sure that your family doesn’t have to spend 2 or 3 times the amount later in life. It is a very difficult topic to always talk about death, especially when you’re speaking about yourself and your loved ones, but you have to realize that the difficult time people will have surrounding the dealer principal’s passing should be the only thing that the family and the teammates are worried about, not the direction that the dealership will go from there on. Dealers who do have succession plans, such as daughters or sons that would like to be in the business, take the time now and push the focus on making sure these family members are up to date in all departments. No one can go ahead and call the shots from up in a 30,000 foot tower and look down. Succession plans need to start by developing each and every one of those family members in the different parts of the dealership as soon as possible. Dealer principals must give them the opportunity to do so. This not only helps your heirs better plan for the future, but, it can help you learn more about what you may need to do to improve in the now. It is almost like that TV program “Undercover Boss,” and you start to find more and more things can be improved from the ground up, and get creative and implement new and innovative processes. I can go on this topic for hours, but I do urge anybody that has any questions — either family member or principal — if they would like to contact me directly, everyone in the car business knows where to find me.
Q. Where would you like or expect your dealership to be in 5-10 years from now?
A. I think after we made the sale of Audi I was very content with hanging on to my exotic brands and I love working with the manufacturers that I have worked with for so many years and serving our client base locally in South Florida as well as our clients from across the world. But, more recently I have come to find and realize that my drive and determination does not allow me to sit idle in one small store. My dreams would be to grow the Prestige Imports brand across the United States as we just did with Pagani Beverly Hills and Pagani Newport Beach and develop the Prestige Imports name worldwide. I would like to be one of the small 2% that is left with something and doesn’t diminish its value, but rather grow it to unbelievable leaps and bounds. Once again though I can’t do this on my own nor do I attribute the success of the dealerships to myself alone. You have to surround yourself with greatness and strive to be the best. Surrounding myself with the best team in the automotive industry is the main reason why I am where I am today.