“Being on the Ward's Dealer 500 is like a badge of honor. It motivates the team, especially when we move up from one year to the next,” says Don Crevier, head of Crevier BMW in Santa Ana, CA, No.6 on this year's list.

Over the list's 23 years, the motivation of growth in dealership revenues has remained a primary driver for many participants.

“Thrilled” with being No.1 on the Ward's 500 for the third year in a row, Fletcher Jones Jr., 60, is not resting on laurels. He is remodeling and expanding the flagship store in Newport Beach and adding a second Hawaii store on Maui.

He has been a Ward's 500 player since opening the Newport Mercedes-Benz store in Newport in 1991. He credits the list's metrics with helping to amass a customer base which “brought us to No.1.”

Jones started out as a dealer in 1971 with a Mazda store in Whittier, CA. He says that even as a young dealer, he realized the importance of hiring the “brightest team to retain customers for the years ahead. The 500, year after year, kept us focused on reaching the top, as did the Mercedes brand.”

Crevier says: “What makes the 500 more meaningful to us, is the fact that it is based on revenues, not merely new-car sales. When sales fall off, as they did in 2009, revenues become more meaningful, because they include used units, service and parts, finance and insurance — things we depend on to offset the variable of new units.”

Crevier BMW's service revenues in 2009 weighed in at $17,288,414. The only top dealership to outpace Crevier in service was No.1 Fletcher Jones Motorcars, which raked in $57,371,000, tops for a Mercedes-Benz dealer.

Perennial leaders on the Ward's 500 share Crevier's emphasis on the value of fixed operations in aiding annual growth.

“Fixed operations have been a key in our ability to stay on top of or close to the top of the 500,” says Bert Boeckman, owner of Galpin Ford, the perennial Ford leader based in North Hills, CA. It was No.11 this year.

In the 1990s, Galpin Ford waged a heated battle against Ricart Ford, of Columbus, OH for the No.1 position. “We beat Ricart on what counts on the 500: service and used cars,” Boeckman says.

“The 500 is like being ranked in golf or tennis,” says David Wilson, owner of the 16-store Wilson Automotive Group, based in Orange county, CA. “It puts the focus on fixed ops that builds customer loyalty and repeat car sales, which boosts CSI ratings, as well.

“Just as players are motivated in golf and tennis to strive for higher rankings, so dealership employees want to work for a store that's always climbing,” he says.

Wilson's holdings include Newport Lexus, one of the three superstores in the Newport Beach trio of “destination” dealerships.

“The 500 gives us the motivation to go after Fletcher Jones Mercedes and Crevier BMW to get our rankings as high as we can,” Wilson says.