Paramount Automotive Group of North Carolina offers a range of automobiles with impeccable service that customers can trust. From function to performance, the needs and wants of the buyer are always the top priority.
Paramount Automotive Group’s President and Chief Executive Officer Benny Yount has always had a passion for cars and has built a career around them. From a modest beginning as a one-man operation to the present, Yount has built a legacy by staying true to his values and putting in hard work and long hours.
“It started at an early age,” Yount said. “I grew up around automobiles. I enjoyed them and found a way to actually make a living out of it. I started with an initial investment of around $1000 – close to it – and was able to run a little, used car operation on a gravel lot for about $50 a month.”
Yount purchased a handful of cars with prices from $75 to $200 and began selling, trading and doing what was needed to stay afloat. “I would buy the vehicles. I would do mechanic work. I’d do the detail work. I’d sell the vehicles. I’d try to balance the checkbook, basically everything that helps with keeping the outfit up, especially when you have no money,” he said.
That was in 1975, and Yount was only twenty-two years old. Within the first week, he cleared his original inventory, made a profit and laid the foundation for his future success.
“I did that for about five years and got into the new car business. My first two franchises, in 1979, were Peugeot and Renault. I never really worked at a new car dealership except for three months one summer when I was sixteen years old, and that was in the detail department. I didn’t have a lot of new car experience, but I had a desire to get into the new car business,” recalled Yount.
When Peugeot and Renault were pulled from the U.S. market a few years later, Yount searched for a new opportunity, which came in the form of a Chrysler dealership. In 1980, despite the weak economic conditions of the time, Yount’s venture paid off.
“Being familiar with used cars went a long way in being successful in the new car business, because if you have that knowledge and you understand that, you’re able to put more deals together, and that’s one of the most important parts of the used car operation,” explained Yount. He also credited good people, products, and relationships.
In 1989, Paramount Motor Sales, the dealership Yount had worked for in his youth, was being sold, and without hesitation, he made the purchase and formed Paramount Automotive Group. The rest, as they say, is history.
For the next decade, Yount and his team would open, operate and sell various Ford, Volvo, Volkswagen, Cadillac, Porsche, Lincoln-Mercury, Honda, Pontiac, Oldsmobile, Hyundai and Isuzu dealerships in Hickory, Valdese and Morganton. Dealerships have come and gone, but the standard of service has never wavered.
In 1993, Yount acquired Foreign Cars Italia in Greensboro and added an extension of this operation in Charlotte in 2005 to bring high-performance vehicle brands like Maserati, Ferrari and Aston Martin to those markets.
Today, Yount operates ten dealerships, with nine specialized service centers that are run by factory-trained, certified, expert technicians.
Whether customers visit Paramount Kia of Hickory, Paramount Hyundai of Hickory, Paramount Volkswagen, Paramount Ford Hyundai of Valdese, Paramount Kia of Asheville, Asheville Used Car Superstore, Foreign Cars Italia of Greensboro, Foreign Cars Charlotte, or Paramount Classic Cars in Hickory, a huge range of needs will be met.
Yount adopted the strategy of focusing on exclusive, high-performance, high-value vehicles as well as those in a more economical class. This approach, as Yount explained, has served Paramount Automotive Group well.
“We’ve been very blessed to have such a diverse portfolio. You’re really able to hit every segment of the market, and that is something that is unique because you can take care of a customer who is buying a Ferrari, but that’s not going to be their everyday car. Maybe they want a Ford F-250 truck to drive every day, or maybe they need one for their company.”
Yount resides in Hickory which means he is no further than one and a half hours away from any of his dealerships. This enables him to travel there and back in a day to provide hands-on management of four hundred employees at the various sites.
Paramount Automotive Group, under the leadership of Yount, has received a number of awards and recognitions including the local chamber of commerce entrepreneur of the year award in 1988, being awarded the key to the city, and the prestigious Porsche Premier Dealer award, among others.
Yount believes there is one underlying principle that has afforded Paramount Automotive Group the opportunity to realize its goals. “We’ve always tried to live by what we call GR 101: the golden rule. We treat others the way we wanted to be treated – always do what’s right and fair regardless of whether that makes you money or not because in the end, it will turn out better.”
“We talk about it every day. We believe in it and we practice it.” He added, “We reward and acknowledge employees. We encourage everybody to be at their best at all times, and it’s just amazing the culture that has been produced because of that core philosophy of GR 101.”
It is the culture at Paramount Automotive Group that has made it stand out. “It creates a nice situation for everybody. It keeps them dealing with people they are familiar with. They are going to get the same treatment and level of service no matter which one of our dealerships they go to because we employ that philosophy everywhere.”
Another key element of Paramount Automotive Group’s values is what Yount referred to as the three Cs of communication, consistency, and commitment. “The number one problem in business or even in personal situations is communication: it’s either a lack of communication, not clear or effective communications, or inconsistent communication,” said Yount.
“It’s communication, consistency, and commitment. We talk about those things. We practice those things, and we feel if we can communicate, that solves a lot of problems if they do occur, and it prevents a lot of problems from occurring.” For Yount, “It’s more than just selling someone a car; it’s building a relationship.”
According to Yount, it all starts “with truth, and it’s one hundred percent of the truth, one hundred percent of the time. When you do that, that builds trust. When you have trust, that really develops a great team. And, we have a great team within our company, but when you practice that with a customer, that builds a good relationship. They believe you; they trust you, and they feel that they are a part of something good, and they want to continue to do business with you.”
Training is also crucial for employees, both as professionals and as individuals, and comes from manufacturers, vendors, and from Yount himself.
Yount ensures that his people enjoy a work-life balance that supports performance in his dealerships and in their personal lives. Paramount Automotive Group is closed on Sundays, and employees are given the time and the tools to make the most of their lives both at and away from work. As Yount noted, “We just promote the right values, morals within our business.”
“We view these people as part of our family,” he added. “Our employees are part of our family, and we know, that balance, the happier they are in their personal lives, the better person they are going to be in their professional lives.”
As well as being a trusted dealership with an extensive inventory, Paramount Automotive Group is also a good community steward. Whether that entails helping The United Way’s United Fund, The Salvation Army, The Fellowship of Christian Athletes or The Boys and Girls Clubs’ after-school programs, there is no limit to what Yount and his team will do to help.
“We continue to grow the business and try to make it better every single day. We’re always looking for ways to improve the level of service that we can give to our customers. We’re always looking for ways to save them money. We’re always looking at how to manage the company in a way that it can be more efficient,” acknowledged Yount.
“We’re always looking at how we can be better stewards of what we have been given to give back and help people, and that’s the long range plan: to keep doing that and there is always room for growth.”
For Paramount Automotive Group, by staying true to its values and its philosophy of the golden rule, continued success is inevitable. “We’ve had a lot of favour with God and man, and it’s been a tremendous journey,” Yount stated.