In Miami, cars are much more than mere transportation, they’re an important part of the culture. A hothouse for exotic autos, you’ll see more cool cars cruising South Beach than any other city in America, and drawing more appreciative glances. Lamborghinis are particularly in favor here, and much of that is down to Prestige Imports, the landmark North Miami Beach luxury and exotic auto dealership founded in 1977 which acquired a pioneering Lamborghini franchise back in 1988.
In celebration of its 40th anniversary Prestige Imports’ 30-year-old CEO Brett David recently unveiled a brand-new showroom on Biscayne Boulevard in a former Walgreens that he spent millions on acquiring and renovating. Now perhaps the premier destinations for exotic autos on the East Coast, in addition to Lamborghini the high-tech facility is home to brands including Pagani, Karma and Lotus as well as more than $12 million of preowned luxury and supercar inventory.
As the youngest new car dealer in the United States, David made headlines when Prestige Imports passed the $1 billion mark in Lamborghini sales. He was also the first to secure a Pagani franchise on the East Coast. Prestige’s roster of celebrity clients has included everyone from Mike Tyson to Rod Stewart, Missy Elliot, the late Whitney Houston, the Rock and DJ Khaled, who trust David to equip them with the slickest rides in town.
David has also brought on JetSmarter, the app-based charter service, as an official partner of Prestige Imports, their first and only dealer partner in the U.S. With it David has the ability to sell partnerships and with certain car purchases buyers will get a free JetSmarter flight experience once the collaboration gets off the ground. Here David tells us what it’s like to live in the fast lane full time:
What do you love about Miami? What makes it one of the best cities in the world to live and work in?
I think Miami is one of the most beautiful and iconic cities in the world. It’s known as the gateway to the Americas, it has great weather, beautiful beaches and people from all over the world with an endless variety of crazy cars.
Why is Miami so uniquely suited to cool cars?
Miami’s car culture continues to grow every year with unique cars ranging from mild to wild. The Miami crowd endorses luxury and sports vehicles, unlike other cities where those type of vehicles may be looked upon negatively. And our tropical climate also allows people to enjoy their vehicles year-round.
What is it like overseeing the #1 Lamborghini dealership in the U.S.?
Being a second-generation dealer, I had the fortunate opportunity of growing up while watching the Lamborghini brand grow. My father acquired the Lamborghini franchise back in 1988, and since then I have witnessed it become one of the most prominent automotive brands in the world.
What have you enjoyed the most about your success? What was your motivation to become so successful at an early age?
My misfortune of losing my father when I was 19 years old and deciding, at that point in time, to continue what he had started, has in turn, given me a great launchpad to grow the business into one of the world’s leaders of the exotic and supercar industry, across multiple platforms. Success for me is not just measured monetarily. I had big shoes to fill, becoming a second-generation dealer at such a young age. It’s been almost 11 years since he passed away and I can honestly say that all the mistakes made, throughout this journey, are where I have learned the most.
Your drive and work ethic seems to go against the grain of what most people think of “millennials”. How are you different, or is that just a bunch of nonsense to begin with?
That’s a great question. My particular situation is different than other so called “millennials”. My drive and work ethic stems from realizing early on that there were many people that wanted to see me fail. I was given the opportunity, at such a young age, and by default, to become CEO of Prestige Imports. This only pushed me further towards a positive onward direction that was fueled by wanting to prove everyone wrong.
Have you always liked cars? When did you first know you wanted to go into the family business?
Growing up in the car business and inside this very dealership, I have vivid memories of always wanting to be around cars. I remember driving my first golf cart and dreaming about the day that I would be able to drive a Lamborghini. But as I got older, I can also remember observing my father close a deal and really enjoying the entire process. Having the opportunity to see everybody’s positive experience, when being able to purchase the car of their dreams, was something I will never forget. There was something about the smell of fuel, the loud combustion of an engine and the thrill of acceleration, that made me know early on that this was something I always wanted to do.
A lot of people would have constructed a new building, why did you decide to transform an existing space?
I think the space worked for exactly what we needed it to be. It wasn’t about the building, exterior or interior, it was truly about the curation of the vehicles we knew we were going to place inside. I wanted to build a building that was safe and that was ready for us to house $30 to $50 million worth of inventory. And with this building what we did was build it like a bomb shelter and it was an exact transformation of something that we needed to do. There was no need for us to build a new building.
What was the thinking behind the Prestige Imports LAB photo studio, and how have clients reacted?
The Prestige Imports LAB is one of my favorite areas in the new showroom or, for that matter, on the campus of Prestige Imports. It offers my team and other likeminded automotive photographers an opportunity to develop their creative abilities by using our collection of pieces of performing art, in a proper setting. They are now able to create really unique pieces of, what we refer to as, car porn. The clients react incredibly as well, especially when we use the LAB as our delivery center. There has never been an experiential element of a car delivery like we have cultivated here at Prestige Imports.
What is it like working with so many celebrity clients? Do you have any favorites?
The truth is, for me, working with celebrity clients has always been fun. Being young and seeing some of my favorite pop stars, famous athletes or business moguls was very cool. But some are more appealing than others. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve realized that these individuals are really just like us. It’s the ones who have allowed their stardom and so-called celebrity status to go to their heads that are less enjoyable to deal with. We are ladies and gentlemen, serving ladies and gentlemen. If I had to pick one specific individual, it would have to be, singer and songwriter, Missy Elliott, who really propelled me into the car world, after selling her a Lamborghini.
What do Prestige Imports clients have in common?
Prestige Imports clients are very unique and come from all over the world. They all seem to have one true passion: their conceptual love for the element of automotive art. The vehicles we sell are not your typical point A to point B forms of transportation. They are true pieces of performing art that are typically either added to the client’s private viewing-only collections, driven daily or handed down to their children. We like to make our customers connect at different car events that we host, allowing them to cross-pollinate their businesses, create new friendships and share their automotive views with one another. Just another bonus when purchasing a car from us. All of our clients become part of our family.
How do you decide which luxury car brands to offer?
In addition to being a factory authorized dealer of Lamborghini, Pagani, Lotus and Karma, we offer an extensive selection of all other luxury exotic and supercar brands. There are so many great vehicles being manufactured today that we carry, but there is also a huge demand for preowned classic cars that have not only held their value but increased exponentially. Many of our clients prefer to, every 6 to 18 months, switch out of their units to try something new. Unlike years ago, brands once known for certain service issues have addressed them, and with proven dependability, have repaired tarnished reputations.
What do you like about Lamborghini?
The Lamborghini brand is both legendary and addicting. Once a customer is exposed to its unyielding performance, it gets into their veins and it’s hard to shake. Lamborghini is one of the most uncompromisingly designed sports cars you can possibly imagine, with the most aggressive manufacturing in the automotive game. I am blessed to be a dealer.
What are some of your other favorite automotive brands and why?
Of course, being a little biased, my two favorites are Lamborghini and Pagani. These two brands are so much a part of who I have am. I grew up seeing my father’s love for Lamborghini and his life-long dream of becoming a Pagani dealer. Understanding what [founder] Ferruccio Lamborghini had gone through, after many trials and tribulations, following his dream to become one of the largest manufacturers in the exotic car sector, has been absolutely incredible to see.
During a recent trip to the Lamborghini factory in Italy, I went and viewed the new Urus super-SUV production line, which of course is right next to the V-10 and V-12 production line. I had been there many times over the past 10 years and also with my father, as a teenager, but I was truly in awe of how far they have come. I was able to fulfill my father’s dream by acquiring the Pagani franchise in 1992. The Pagani automobile is the true definition of performing art. Meeting Horacio Pagani is like meeting Enzo Ferrari or Ferruccio Lamborghini. This man is a living legend best described as the Leonardo da Vinci of the automotive world. Purchasing a vehicle from him is not only an amazing experience, but an extraordinary opportunity. I am blessed to be one of the select few to represent this magnificent brand.
What cars do you drive yourself?
I’m extremely fortunate to have a collection that includes special pieces that have been in my family for decades, like a 1989 Lamborghini Countach and a 1971 Mercedes-Benz 280SL that was my father’s first new vehicle, which inevitably paved the way for him dealing with European imports. My favorite vehicle, which may seem a bit cheesy, is a 1967 Shelby GT500 Fastback, famously named Eleanor, from the movie Gone in 60 Seconds. There’s something about the smell of the petroleum in that car and the way it has a raw form of driving, with no computers. It truly takes a great driver to tame her, and that’s one of the greatest feelings I’ve ever felt.
What is it about boats that interests you? What are the parallels between the world of fast boats and fast cars?
Living in Miami I’ve come to understand that one of the most prominent things people seek when they move here is a great automotive experience in cars and boats with a passion that they’ve never had. For example, our South American clients that have always had passions for exotic vehicles but were never able to use them in the cities they lived or worked in for so many years (such as Brazil or Venezuela or Colombia or even Mexico) where success is culturally frowned upon, typically are eager to have an authentic exotic automotive experience. The same typically goes for boats, especially since there aren’t many places where owning a boat is feasible.
My passion for boats started early on. My fondest memories were on Sundays when my father took me boating. I remember the first time he taught me how to tie up a boat, drive a boat, enjoy a boat, and of course, clean a boat. Understanding our customer’s desires had allowed us to create a luxury center in the new Prestige Imports 2.0 building where we conquered land, sea and air. Air can be found with our aviation partner, JetSmarter. Based on the parallels between the connection, we’ve created Prestige Imports 2.0, a one stop shop for the world’s best luxury items all in one place and in the greatest city in the world.
Do you support any charities or have philanthropic interests? Why do you choose certain causes?
Out of all the endless causes out there, childhood disease is the one that stays closest to my heart. Thankfully, children are extremely resilient, but I still think it’s so unfair for them to suffer. While there are so many worthy organizations donating to cancer research, in 2011, my sister and I, along with my mother, started The Ride2Revive Foundation, which provides Miles of Smiles on the Road to Recovery. We wanted to share our world of exotic supercars with kids battling cancer and other life-threatening diseases. We plan charity track events that allow these kids to forget about their health-related struggles and give them the opportunity to be driven around the track in the world’s most incredible automobiles at Homestead-Miami Speedway. It’s extremely rewarding for our family, along with generous local businesses and customers who want to put their cars to good use. At the end of the day, it’s always for the children.
Do you think electric cars are definitely the way of the future? What about autonomous vehicles and how they’ll affect the sports car experience?
The future is now! Take Elon Musk, for example. A true pioneer in the electric automotive game, he has followed his passion and dedication to create a company that is eco-friendly. Saving the Earth is not a luxury, it’s a necessity. Tesla has also redefined the retail experience. We are witness to many different business disruptors across multiple sectors, whether it’s real estate, e-commerce or open markets. One of the biggest changes that we are seeing now is mobility. Purchasing vehicles from dealers has changed and the way that people drive on sharing programs or even conceptual ideas like Uber have been huge game-changers. But what will never change is the concept of customer service. We pride ourselves on knowing that the human experience will always remain the preferred way of selling the types of vehicles that we offer. No two preowned vehicles are alike and they all come with their own story.
I can tell you from my experience, they trade like pieces of art – performing art, that is. We also recently acquired the Karma brand (which was the old Fisker, but new and improved). A hybrid, made in California, with an exquisite body style and state-of-the-art interior space.
What will the next 40 years hold for you and Prestige?
I truly believe the world is not ready for what we want to do with the automotive change. I will keep my comments close to heart until we start evolving these. I am equally as excited, as you are, to see the difference and the growth of Prestige Imports. What I will say is, after 40 years of Prestige Imports being in business, 30 years under the management of my father, and 10 years under mine, we are just getting started. And I can’t thank my incredible team enough, and of course my family, for believing in me and some of my whacko dreams and ideas. Stay tuned for the future of Prestige Imports.