Jason Lewis, general manager of East Tennessee Dodge-Chrysler-Jeep in Crossville, TN, (population 10,825) has little patience for dealers who complain they cannot pull out of a sales slump.

Some are simply “asleep at the wheel,” he says. “It’s my opinion they’re struggling due to their processes and policies and how they’re handling their customers. The car business is as good as I’ve seen it, and I started in 1998.”

Last year was a record year for the dealership in volume and revenue.

Along with two pre-owned satellite facilities in neighboring towns, Lewis’s team generated $61.5 million in annual revenue, putting the dealership, which is part of Canton, MI-based Victory Automotive Group, at No.421 on the WardsAuto Dealer 500. “We sold about 2,800 cars last year, and we’re on pace to exceed that in 2013,” Lewis says. “Last year was up 12 % from 2011. I’m never satisfied with where we are. I always feel like we could do a little better.”  

He attributes success to maintaining a positive attitude, building and retaining the best team and representing Chrysler Group.

“What Fiat has done with Chrysler is unbelievable,” Lewis says. “The products are absolutely amazing and they continue to get better. Their attention to detail is tenfold what was going on five years ago. Chrysler is 100% behind the dealers to really help them move some cars.”  

The Tennessee store will break ground this summer on a $4 million, 22,000-sq.-ft. (2,043- sq.-m) facility and expects to add six to 10 new employees. 

Based on brand reputations alone, one may think Mercedes-Benz, Porsche, Jaguar, Land Rover and Maserati vehicles can sell themselves. But competition in the Kansas City, KS, market cannot be ignored by Aristocrat Motors, No.177 on this year’s list with $104 million in total revenue.

“When companies’ financial arms offer 0% leases, that drives business to the other manufacturers,” says Aristocrat President Marion Battaglia. “If you can lease a 3-Series BMW for $400 a month, that gives them an advantage. That’s what drives this luxury business. People will gravitate to what they can afford and what is perceived as the best value.”

Mercedes represents 60% of Aristocrat’s new-car volume. Its Land Rover and Porsche business continues to grow. Battaglia says Porsche has found a niche with the 4-door Panamera that goes up against the Mercedes S-Class and BMW 7-Series.

Battaglia says the keys to his store’s success are empowering his staff to make decisions that satisfy customers, and being involved in the community.

This year, he challenged marketing director Robert Hellweg to come up with a list of promotions that would drive sales traffic. As a result, the dealership will host events ranging from a pet-adoption day to a car show with legendary British racer Stirling Moss. A May golf expo held at the dealership drew 240 people in four hours, more than twice the normal traffic.

“The most important part in a dealership is to let your staff know that we’re doing things differently,” Battaglia says. “We’re not just sitting on our hands and hoping someone shows up.”

On the premise that satisfied employees mean satisfied customers, Aristocrat recognizes staff birthdays and anniversaries. The dealership recently matched employee contributions for a detailer whose house had burned and presented him with a check for $10,200.