Eric Leys, 39
General manager, Lexus of San Diego
When Eric Leys took over as general manager of Lexus of San Diego last year, he faced challenges in a couple areas of dealership operations, but quickly righted the ship and brought it back to the brand’s top Elite of Lexus status.
In winning the award, Leys was mindful of satisfaction scores by consumers but also by the other customers he represents as the store’s leader: his entire team.
“There’s two types of customers really,” he said. “There’s internal customers and external customers. Most people think customers are the people we don’t work with, that come into the store and want to buy something from us or service a vehicle with us. And really all your coworkers are also a customer, and you have the same obligations to them that you have to your own customers.”
One of the areas Leys worked to improve was dissatisfaction by technicians over the way a factory maintenance program was implemented and the fairness in the dispatching process for service jobs. Leys formed a committee with the fixed operations manager and eight technicians to hammer out a solution.
The technicians’ assessment of the process, Leys said, would be something like: “Eric sure didn’t give us everything we wanted, but we got to common ground.”
Beginning in December, Leys also began a volume push, with sales rising 20 percent year-on-year for the month and 23 percent in the first quarter of 2019.
Leys has a long record of retail success that goes back to the late 1990s, when he worked at The Sharper Image. One of his customers there suggested he go into auto retail, and Leys worked at Honda and Acura stores, eventually becoming a co-owner of Acura of Libertyville in Illinois.
After the majority owner of the dealership decided to sell, Leys landed in sunny San Diego with Penske Automotive Group. It’s his second job with Penske, having worked as general manager of Volkswagen South Coast, also in Southern California, from 2014 to 2016.
Many things have changed over Leys’ two decades in retail, but many things have also stayed the same since the beginning of his journey. “The process that I employed for my customers was incredibly professional, very transparent, and I tried to be as respectful as possible of their time as I possibly could,” he said. “And those are still the things we are chasing today.”
Leys is a contemporary film buff and likes to vacation “just like everybody else.” But he also admits to spending some of his free time on creative ways to improve dealership operations — “the vision stuff, the continuous improvement.”
— Laurence Iliff