Age: Early 60s
Birthplace: Miami Beach
Residence: Miami Beach
Current position: CEO and corporate director, South Motors and Vista Motors
Past positions: Dealer development, sales manager and customer Service, South Motors and Vista Motors
Boards: South Florida Auto Dealers Association, Florida Automobile Dealers Association, Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles Automobile Dealer Industry Advisory Board
As CEO and corporate director of South Motors and Vista Motors, Jonathan Chariff oversees an $800 million operation with 11 locations and more than 1,200 employees. The family-owned company’s ties to South Florida are longstanding, selling and servicing well over 1 million vehicles since its founding in 1956.
And the company continues to grow and innovate. South Motors BMW was selected to become part of BMW’s Retail Next Program for North America. The dealership is the first of 351 locations to offer the retail concept.
How did you become involved in the company? I had been in business for many years when my father-in-law, Charles Dascal; Manolo Villamanan, president at the time; and his partner, Mr. Hoffman, a founding partner of Greenberg Traurig, brought me into the fold. They recognized my analytical thought process, my strong work ethic and my entrepreneurial spirit and thought we could do great things together.
South Motors was selected to be part of BMWs Retail Next program for North America. What does this mean for the company? We were initially working with BMW on their previous design, and we were already underway on construction when we heard about this Retail Next program. We were eager to get involved and worked with BMW to pivot our construction midway. It is not only a design overhaul of the dealer’s interior space, but also a new concept and ideas around the ordering process for a BMW. We have been able to change the way sales are done so that we can work with our customers in a much more comfortable, technology-forward capacity. Dealerships upgraded to Retail Next won’t have the sales adviser cubicles anymore. Salespersons will talk with prospective customers right next to the cars they’re interested in purchasing. One dealer representative that has seen the new layout says it’s an “eclectic hotel lobby” with a “warm and colorful” atmosphere. As a company, we hope to continue … to be leaders in innovation, and to bring similar new business models to other stores and brands that we represent. We believe this type of selling is the future, and we aim to be at the forefront of it.
How did the company bounce back from Covid-19? We are very fortunate in that we had a proactive governor who allowed businesses like ours to stay open as an essential business. We were able to service our community throughout the pandemic, and we also operated our At Home sales and service program, which allows clients to browse, select, purchase and coordinate delivery of any vehicle from any smart device. The service department also implemented At Home service, picking up vehicles from the homes of clients for servicing, and sanitizing the vehicle before returning it. So luckily, no bouncing back needed!
What do you enjoy about leadership? Mentorship. I love watching people grow and allowing room for them to grow within the company. Nothing is more important than growth from within.
What is your biggest professional accomplishment? I am incredibly proud of the fact that so many of our employees have been with us for decades. We really do feel like a family, and I love watching our stores improve every day. Some of our stores are in the Top 10 in the country for their brands.
Where do you see your company in 10 years? Continuing to do sales as we know it today while investing in innovative, digital-first solutions for cars across services and sales. We’d like our customers to do everything online, if they prefer to, and to find ways to provide them with a humanistic digital experience. We also are very strong in our community, in terms of our involvement and our charitable contributions, but in the next decade I’d like to see us become more of a thought leader in South Florida.
What advice would you give to a startup dealership owner? Be well capitalized, and surround yourself with good, honest people.
Where do you like to travel? My happiest place is in the Bahamas. I love fishing, boating, and spending quality time with friends and family. I also love Capri.