North Central Florida is predominately made up of tight knit agriculture communities where at any given moment you could get stuck behind a tractor on a quiet two-lane road. Yet, in 2016, The Warren Henry Auto Group decided to bring the luxury car dealership, Audi, to Gainesville.
Up until then, the closest Audi dealership to the North Central Florida area was in Jacksonville. Other Audi dealerships are mainly located in Orlando and South Florida, where one could expect a higher volume of Audi drivers.
According to general manager of Audi Gainesville, Tom Brinkmann, Gainesville was chosen as the North Central Florida Audi dealership based on the fact that they already owned the lot as it was a previous Volvo dealership, and that the economy in Gainesville is more stable than some surrounding communities.
“When the economy got into trouble at the last recession, the Gainesville market was still pretty stable because of Shands and UF,” said Brinkmann.
He added, “Basically when everything else goes down, people are still going to go to college and people are still going to have jobs at the hospital so the economy is more intact at the bad news times.”
Though Gainesville is a college town, sales manager Greg Green, stated that college kids are not their largest demographic of customers and that they mainly come in for service. “Everybody is the primary market, we don’t discriminate,” stated Green.
For Audi Gainesville, service seems to be its driving factor. Brinkman stated that Audi recognized that driving to Jacksonville or Orlando was too far for their North Central Florida drivers to receive service.
Audi was, however, torn on the location between Gainesville and Ocala. They ultimately chose Gainesville because the market is more consistently stable and they already owned the property.
Warren Henry Auto Group, based out of the South Florida area, who brought the Audi dealership to Gainesville, isn’t an exclusive Audi brand dealer. They also work with Land Rover, Lamborghini, Jaguar, Infiniti and others.
“Audi is a very positive brand right now,” said Greg Green, Sales Manager for the Audi in Gainesville, “They (Warren Henry Auto Group) wanted to get into it.”
The Business Report of North Central Florida previously covered a story on the Audi dealership in Gainesville where they learned about the hopes for the early years of the dealership. Two years after the opening Brinkmann stated that the Gainesville dealership had achieved his hopes of exceptional customer service.
“I think that we get better at what we do everyday and what we try to do is to provide an exceptional customer experience, we’re not pushy people, we have a nice waiting area, we try to make it as comfortable as we can.”
Said Brinkmann, “I think that’s what anyone should do, it took two years to get the right team together, we have 26 people working here and we’d like them to stay.”
According to Brinkmann, a few of the sales staff have worked in sales jobs before, but that they come from all walks of life.
“We don’t necessarily hire people who were in the car sales experience, we prefer them to come in with a fresh mind,” said Brinkmann. “I think the first thing is they have to be nice, then based on the paperwork, it helps to be meticulous. You have to care to be good at what you do.”
In the 2018 Automotive News ranking of best dealerships to work for, the Gainesville Audi Dealership was ranked as number 17 out of 100 nationally. Brinkmann stated that the statistics and rankings come from employee votes.
This past October, Gainesville Audi hosted the 2nd Annual Oktoberfest on Main Street in Gainesville where they raised $15,000 that they donated to the Ronald McDonald House of North Central Florida. Audi Gainesville chose the Oktoberfest event based of Audi’s roots in the Bavarian parts of Germany.
“What we look for in the event is showing people that we are an approachable car dealer and to get to know the community in a more relaxed environment,” said Brinkmann. “We partnered with the Ronald McDonald house because we like their good cause.”
According to Green, the best selling Audi cars in North America are the A4 and the Q5. US News gave the A4 a ranking of 9.0 out of 10 and put it at fourth place in their Luxury Small Car Rankings. US News also had the Q5 ranked at 8.9 out of 10 and the winner of their 2018 Best Luxury Compact SUV for Families award.
“Sales are going super!” added Green. Brinkmann also stated that the sales at the Gainesville Audi dealership were going well and he believes it is because of the customer service.
“We’ll address it up front that we’re not pushy people here. This is supposed to be a good experience here, we’re not pushy, that goes a mile,” said Brinkmann.
By Rhiannon Boyer