An old military saying is that you can be the best general in the world, but you’ll lose the war if the troops don’t fight for you. 

That’s a philosophy Mathew Dresp adheres to at Chapman BMW on Camelback in Phoenix, AZ, as he explains why taking care of employees goes hand in hand with customer care.

He believes that employee satisfaction leads to taking care of “clients,” as BMW refers to customers.

“Employee care is close to customer care,” says Dresp, Chapman’s general manager who has worked in auto sales since 1980.

Chapman, which gets part of its name from being located on E. Camelback Rd., is Arizona’s top-selling BMW dealer and No.2 in BMW sales in the Western region. 

Dresp is proud of that and something else: His store didn’t lay off one employee in the depth of the 2008-2009 auto-industry sales meltdown. Because of staff additions, he now has 145 employees compared with 105 in 2008 when the recession hit. He also has nine managers who report to him.

The dealership is located in a defunct Toys ‘R’ Us store. Chapman spent about $19 million to convert it to an upscale facility for its German luxury-brand franchise in 2009.

Transforming the 100,000-sq.-ft (9,210-sq.-m) building and 5-acre (2-ha) site into a dealership was part of repositioning Chapman in the scenic Camelback Mountain valley in Phoenix.

Nearby are Chapman on Camelback’s certified pre-owned and other pre-owned vehicle lots. The original BMW Camelback dealership opened in 2002.

Dresp’s store was one of a select 31 BMW Centers of Excellence in 2011 and 2012, based on customer satisfaction and brand and operational excellence. BMW has 339 dealerships nationwide.

Chapman on Camelback tries to certify every pre-owned car that meets BMW certified pre-owned criteria. Those vehicles come with an added protection plan of two-years and 50,000 miles (80,000 km). A new BMW comes with a warranty of four years and 50,000 miles.

 “Customers are buying peace of mind,” Dresp says of the added protection. “We’re the largest certified pre-owned BMW center in the West.”

BMW’s brand reputation is another strong selling factor. “BMW has exceptional products. It helps to have a solid brand reputation,” Dresp says.

The Chapman BMW store ranks No.55 on the WardsAuto Dealer 500. The dealership sold 2,903 vehicles and took in total revenues of $135.2 million last year.

Dresp aims higher. “I told our folks we want to be in the top and keep moving up,” he says, predicting an 8% increase in sales and a 6% rise in service and parts business this year.

The dealership is part of the Chapman Automotive Group based in Chandler, AZ, a Phoenix suburb. The 19-store group ranks No.1 on this year’s WardsAuto e-Dealer 100 with storewide Internet department sales of 15,300 vehicles.

Jerry B. Chapman founded Chapman Automotive in 1966. Sons Baxter, John, and Ted Chapman work for the family business. Eddie Davault is CEO of the group that ranks No.25 on the WardsAuto Megadealer 100.

The Chapman group operating throughout Arizona and Nevada represents several automotive and truck nameplates:

Those are: Ford, Isuzu, Mazda, Chrysler, Jeep, Dodge, BMW, Mercedes-Benz, Volkswagen, Porsche, Mitsubishi, Hyundai, Honda, Chevrolet, Audi and Acura.

Despite sales success, an uncertain economy is still on Dresp’s worry list.

Arizona was hit particularly hard during the recession and housing crisis. It remains one of the leading states for home foreclosures.

“The economy is rebounding slowly,” Dresp says. “There are still concerns out there. But we’re coming back. Car sales, especially, are coming back.”

He adds: “At Chapman, we held our own (during the recession). We hire car guys. Our whole auto group is run by car guys. It’s family-owned and -operated, so our first priority is to take care of clients.”

He credits auto makers for refining their manufacturing schedules to match supply with demand. “They’re managing production better, both domestic and import car makers.” 

Fully recovering from a deep economic slide will take time, Dresp says. The auto industry has left its mark on cities and towns across the country. Nearly 20% of retail business is tied to automotive, he notes.

He agrees with predictions the auto industry will sell about 15.4 million units this year. He hopes Europe’s economic woes will be resolved and not affect the U.S.

The European market has lagged in auto sales in recent years. “There are still hurdles in Europe we can’t control,” Dresp says. BMW is based in Munich.

Keeping employees motivated and in tune with sales and service targets is uppermost in the minds of Chapman management. Dresp and his managers set forecasts together each year.

The plan is to get consensus on all targets and sales goals. “We create a path to get there together,” so there’s buy-in on goals, Dresp says. Managers hold monthly meetings to review progress.

An “I Believe” slogan is displayed visibly throughout the dealership. Dresp designed it himself. It’s also on stickers employees can put on laptops or notebooks.

“Anything you do, you’ve got to believe in it,” says Dresp. Employees and managers know that sentiment by heart. They also know performance counts.

Dresp began selling Chevrolets in 1980 in Cleveland. In 1984, he moved to Phoenix where he sold Hondas, then Acura and Mercedes-Benz models. In 1992, he hired on at Linda Brock BMW, moving to sales management.

Brock sold to Chapman Automotive Group in 1995. Dresp became general manager of Chapman BMW on Camelback in 2002.

He doesn’t kid himself. He knows Phoenix is a competitive market and customers can shop among three BMW dealerships in his area. Cadillac, Mercedes-Benz, Lexus, Infiniti and other luxury stores are in the neighborhood.

He’s proud of his dealership’s success, but doesn’t take it for granted.

Company Profile: Chapman BMW on Camelback

  • Location: Phoenix, AZ, on a road near the Camelback Mountains.
  • Dealer principal:  Jerry B. Chapman founder of the Chapman Automotive Group, No.25 on the WardsAuto Megadealer 100.
  • Chapman Automotive CEO: Eddie Davault
  • General manager: Mathew Dresp
  • Ranking on WardsAuto Dealer 500: No.55
  • 2012 Total Revenues: $135.2 million
  • 2012 New-Vehicle Sales: 1,148 units
  • 2012 Used-Vehicle Sales: 1,755 units
  • Distinctions: BMW Center of Excellence in 2011 and 2012.

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