On the short trek from his office to the service department at New Country BMW in Hartford, Conn., Job Pimentel walks across a campus in transition. Behind him is a relatively modest showroom that, until recently, housed the New Country group’s MINI franchise, now located in a new building across the street. Straight ahead is a massive construction site and a fenced-in used-car lot. To his left, looming above a tree line, are the office towers and apartment buildings of downtown Hartford.
After 30 years in the car business — all but a few of which have been spent with the BMW brand — the dealership’s recently hired general manager was brought in to oversee a $5 million expansion of New Country’s sales and service centers, improve sales and customer retention, and reclaim BMW’s Center of Excellence distinction.
“I see tremendous potential for this store. And we’re right in the middle of a metro area,” Pimentel says. “We’re in a good neighborhood with plenty of folks who have the desire to own the ‘Ultimate Driving Machine.’”
Around the BMW World
Born in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, Pimentel, 52, spent parts of his childhood there, as well as in New York City, Los Angeles, Northern New Jersey and Eastern Massachusetts. Having always dreamed of becoming a doctor, he enrolled in the pre-med program at Lee College (now Lee University) in Cleveland, Tenn., but left when he decided his family couldn’t bear the financial strain.
He was introduced to the car business as a teenager. Whenever a family member wanted to buy a car, he would serve as translator. He became intimately familiar with the purchase and financing processes, and when he asked for a job at Sonny Chevrolet in Paterson, N.J., he was hired on the spot.
“My first nine months in the car business, I was 21 years old, and I made $70,000,” Pimentel says. “I never looked back.”
Pimentel moved quickly up the ranks, earning a promotion to sales manager in his first year before moving to Watertown, Conn., to take over as general sales manager at County Line Buick Nissan and then general manager at County Line BMW.
He and his wife, Flora, and their seven children (whom he refers to as the “Dominican Brady Bunch”) reside in Watertown to this day, but it was by no means his last stop. His 30-year journey through the automotive industry has also included executive positions at BMW dealerships in Albuquerque, N.M., West Springfield, Mass., and San Juan, Puerto Rico, where he also owned a Kia franchise, a Nissan store, and a used-car dealership.
But once a BMW dealer, always a BMW dealer, Pimentel says, and he believes most customers feel the same way.
“I feel that, once you’ve owned a BMW, it’s hard to not own one. You’re in the family for life.”
Transparency and Profitability
Over the years, Pimentel has developed a management style built upon coaching, processes and transparency. When he entered the industry, he says, training opportunities were scarce. He learned how to run a dealership by observation and osmosis, and he determined early on he would never engage in the types of abusive and deceptive practices that ran rampant when he joined the industry.
“Customer satisfaction was not at the forefront,” Pimentel says. “But I lived by referrals, and I did very well in the Latin communities in New Jersey. … I showed my guys there was no need to be anything but transparent.”
Pimentel believes his personal philosophy dovetailed with the corporate philosophy of the BMW brand. He stresses the company’s reputation as one of the few factories that has never had a major quality issue or scandal. He describes his approach as a “three-legged stool” of customer satisfaction, employee satisfaction and profitability.
All those skills will be put to the test at New Country BMW, where he has set aggressive goals for capturing more market share and staffing up to match the dealership’s growing footprint. To reclaim Center of Excellence honors, the store will have to meet a series of benchmarks relating to CSI, market penetration and customer loyalty. Within the next two years, Pimentel wants to increase new and used sales from 1,200 to 1,600 units per year, and raise New Country’s retention rate to 80%.
His efforts will be aided, he says, by a talented and growing staff, as well as an OEM that packs its expanding product lineup with fresh designs, innovative technology, and industry-leading safety features.
“I’m looking forward to it,” Pimentel says. “It should be an interesting ride.”