"Obviously, you have to start with a great team of happy employees. Otherwise, you get disgruntled people that turn over left and right, and you never have that kind of experience," Brandon said. About half of the staff members that Brandon inherited at the VW store in 1997 are still there.
New employees, however, generally come from outside the auto retailing business. There are exceptions, but Brandon doesn't want to inject bad practices into a business where respect and transparency are paramount to its mission statement and survival.
"It just seems to be easier to start with somebody that has a great personality, has some passion for cars, obviously some aptitude for basic selling skills, but then we teach them our way," Brandon said. He acknowledged that more dealers are following that path, but Capistrano has a long legacy it can leverage with staff and customers.
In fact, that experience was helpful in attracting Mazda to the Capistrano name. The stores share a property along the busy Interstate 5 corridor between Los Angeles and San Diego. Brandon says there are probably 25 VW and Mazda dealers within an hour's drive in light traffic, which means competition is stiff.
"Mazda was excited to add us ... because of everything we've done taking care of our customers, our employees, everything that kind of falls under the Smileage Guarantee. That's what we're about, so we brought it to the party when we became a Mazda dealer," he said.
The Volkswagen and Mazda dealerships easily outpace factory targets. Sales of new and used vehicles at both stores combined run about 250 per month, Brandon said.