This article is a reprint from the new series from Automotive News called “Dealers of Distinction.”

Mario Murgado

Mario Murgado distributes gifts at a toy fair at his Little Havana dealership.

David Barkholz
Automotive News — April 25, 2011 – 12:01 am ET

Mario Murgado’s Brickell Motors is an anchor of Little Havana, a neighborhood immediately west of downtown Miami.

“Mario’s one heck of a presence who motivates others along the street to make their businesses look better and help the area grow,” said Frank Carollo, a Miami city commissioner who grew up in Little Havana.

In the 1960s, Little Havana became home to tens of thousands of Cuban exiles who fled Fidel Castro’s regime. Twenty years later it became a landing zone for many exiles fleeing the leftist Sandinista government in Nicaragua. Today it is a Hispanic melting pot. More than 95 percent of the shoppers at Murgado’s Honda and Buick-GMC stores are Hispanic.

Murgado, 48, is a Cuban exile who spent most of his career working his way up the corporate ladder at Braman Dealerships in Miami. Today he is a fixture in the community.

For two years, Brickell has helped Radio Paz, a Spanish-language radio ministry of the Archdiocese of Miami, raise $290,000 through the radio auction of two Honda Accord sedans donated by Brickell.

“If I need help with an event or charity, I know I can count on him,” Carollo said.

Murgado said he encourages salespeople and staff members to be involved in the community and build the kinds of relationships with schools, churches and businesses that sometimes lead to vehicle sales — but only as a by-product of giving back.