Printed in Automotive News May 23, 2011
The top-selling Audi dealer in the United States is 23 years old -- and has been running the business since he was 19.
Brett David took over Prestige Imports of Miami in 2007 after his father and automotive mentor, Irv David, died of a fourth heart attack at age 56.
He almost didn't get the chance. Some people thought he was too young for the responsibility.
In a letter written just six months before his death, Irv David instructed Brett to sell the dealership because of the strain it would cause. The letter was delivered to Brett after his father's death.
"My father said it was the stress of the business that had killed him," said Brett, who will be 24 next month. "He wanted me to sell the dealership."
That was one wish Brett said he couldn't honor. Given his concern for employees, his vision for the store and a streak of rebelliousness that manifested itself early in life, he had to give it a go.
"One part of it is that I would be conquering something that took my father's life," said David, who also operates Lamborghini Miami on the site.
In his first full year in charge of Prestige Imports, Audi sales jumped from 500 new cars in 2006 to 2,000 in 2007, David said. It was at that point that the store became Audi's top-selling new-car dealership in the United States. In 2010, Prestige Audi sold 1,610 new cars and again was the national leader in sales volume.
The key to growth was an emphasis on service, creative marketing and new bonus incentives stressing customer satisfaction, David said.
He said his father was old-school, focusing on immediate sale and profit.
"I believe service is what sells the second car. We set up a structure to reflect that."
David said he pegged bonuses to dealership scores on customer satisfaction and service satisfaction instead of on sales growth and gross. He knew from working at the dealership that customers would sometimes complain about cars with blemishes or other issues.
That was going to change. In one of his first acts as CEO, David called an all-employee meeting and told them he wanted them all to stay, but they had to buy into his vision. Vendors to the dealership received a similar message a few days later.
David's youthful exuberance led to a marketing coup. He shocked some Lamborghini and exotic-car enthusiasts by commissioning a South Florida graffiti artist to paint a pearl white $255,000 Lamborghini Gallardo with a Sharpie pen.
The Sharpie Lamborghini went viral on the Internet and made famous David's personal ride around Miami.
Don Stephenson, director of Audi of America Inc.'s Southern region, said David surrounded himself with skilled people in his father's organization.
"I give Brett credit. He knew he had a good team and good processes in place, and he let them move ahead," said Stephenson, who worked with Irv David as well.
Growth has come from a combination of a hot South Florida market for luxury vehicles, Prestige Imports' strong organization and attractive Audi vehicles.
David also has been moving Prestige Imports away from traditional media to a greater emphasis on Internet sales, social media and events marketing.
The dealership likes to display cars outside hotels and art galleries to show how they fit with the South Florida lifestyle. "I want to get our logo out there," David said.
Among other changes he instituted was a call program that quoted a final vehicle price to customers for 24 hours. And he expanded his Audi loaner fleet from 10 vehicles to 30 so any service customer would have a loaner, he said.
David is not shy. Just days after Irv David relented and allowed 17-year-old Brett to begin selling cars at the dealership after school, Brett found himself at a local gas station where music star Missy Elliot was trying to start a stalled Lamborghini.
He invited her to come to the store to look for a new ride. A few days later, she bought the first Lamborghini he ever sold. She remains a good customer. c