"Everybody gets training: sales, managers, concierge, technicians," Baker said.
The training is largely split between online courses and a classroom, he said. Employees are expected, to achieve top certification -- whether in sales, finance or service -- from the brands they sell and are rewarded with bonuses, Baker said.
For example, Baker Motor Co. of Charleston has four technicians certified as Gold Technician by Porsche, the highest achievement available for Porsche service techs. Only 100 Porsche technicians across the country have attained that certification, Baker said.
In the Mercedes-Benz portion of Baker Motor Co. of Charleston, all 80 employees are certified by the brand.
Bonuses help motivate employees, Baker said, but so does The Baker Way, the culture at the stores that encourages personal responsibility and professional pride.
"Let me tell you how that works," he said. "When our people get within five feet of a customer at any time, they automatically ask how they can serve them."
He said enlisting in the Marines out of high school put him on the straight and narrow. He said he learned manners there and that "his word was his bond."
He said he got his passion for the car business by selling Toyotas after school while attending The Citadel, a military college in Charleston. He attended the college to play baseball on a nonofficer track, he said. He opened his first dealership at age 26 in the small town of Clinton, N.C., about 60 miles southeast of Raleigh.
Joe Verde, a dealer sales training consultant, said the 300 annual training hours for Baker Motor employees was "about right" at about six hours a week.
He said it's more typical of stores to give their salespeople no training. Verde said too often, sales managers come off the floor and carry with them the old attitude of "hiring someone, telling them, 'See you later and make me proud.'"
That attitude is a prime reason why the average dealership sells vehicles to only two of 10 customers who visit the store, while eight of those 10 will buy a car. "They end up going down the street," Verde said.