When a group headed by Mark Mason Sr. bought Lugoff Ford in September 2008 as the recession deepened, the dealership was struggling to stay afloat.
His son, Mark Mason Jr., then the inventory manager at the store, near Columbia, S.C., took over the general manager role in 2010 while still enrolled at NADA Dealer Academy.
The younger Mason wasted no time in tackling the store's problems. He installed a cut-costs-first, ask-questions-later approach and turned aggressively to the Internet to increase sales. The results have been impressive. New-vehicle sales have doubled, used-vehicle sales have tripled, and profits have soared 127 percent.
Mark Mason Jr. says he couldn't have done it without technology. "I'm going to have to give all the credit to the Internet. We've started to draw from Augusta, Columbia, Savannah and Charleston through the Internet."
He adds: "When we took over, this store was doing somewhere between 45 and 50 total units a month. Now we're in the ballpark of 100 to 110 new and used" combined per month, he says.
But first he had to cut costs.
"When we bought the store, we came in, printed out all the vendors and went through them line by line," he says. "My dad had the philosophy: Cut it out. We cut everything and slowly started realizing what we did and didn't need."
Mason has made customer satisfaction a priority, following a policy known as "the three R's."
If a customer is not satisfied with a vehicle, the dealership will repair the vehicle, refund the purchase price or replace the vehicle with something the customer likes better.
He still sees room to improve. Says Mason: "My goal is to be in the top 5 percent of Ford dealers in customer satisfaction and profitability as a percentage of sales by 2014."
-- Bradford Wernle