Having a chaplain on staff at an automotive dealership may sound somewhat unusual, especially in today’s world in which many companies have had to cut back their number of employees due to COVID-19. However, at the Jim Hudson Automotive dealerships in the Midlands, that’s the exact opposite of what has happened.
Employees have remained front and center of the company’s philosophy that has ensured success for almost 41 years. And a company chaplain is just one of the many ways the employees at the eight Jim Hudson dealerships benefit from its founder’s philosophy that without employees, they don’t have a business.
“The chaplain is kind of like a doctor and makes rounds,” says Josh Waters, director of public relations for the Jim Hudson Automotive Group. “He walks around talking to people and just checking in. Unfortunately, he has had to bury some of our employees, but he’s also performed marriage ceremonies for some of them. When he talks to them it’s not necessarily about religion, but it’s usually about just listening.”
Jim Hudson opened his first dealership just over 40 years ago after moving to Columbia from a tobacco farm in Turkey, North Carolina. With $100 in his pocket, he had planned to attend the University of South Carolina. After working for a short time making eyeglasses, Jim met a person working in the business of selling cars who convinced him that he could make more money in the car business than in eyeglasses. Not long after that, Jim bought his first dealership in 1980. He was the youngest dealer in the country at the time.
And while the company wasn’t able to celebrate its 40th anniversary in the grand style as planned in 2020, the distinguished history of the company still reflects a story of commitment to its employees, its customers, and its community.
With just shy of 700 employees in its eight dealerships in Columbia and Augusta, Jim Hudson’s company lives out his belief — and company tagline — of “experience it once and you will never forget it.” The company owns Lexus and Acura dealerships in Augusta along with Lexus, Buick, GMC, Audi, Cadillac, and Chevrolet in Columbia; Toyota in Irmo; and Ford in Lexington.
When Jim opened that first dealership in Columbia in 1980, interest rates to purchase a car were hovering around 22 percent — not an ideal way to launch a new company in a very competitive type of business. But Jim’s commitment to his employees lined up with his commitment to his customers to bring national recognition to his eight dealerships’ work.
Another piece of the Jim Hudson group’s success lies in the company’s third pillar in addition to employees and customers — the community. This past year, the company supported 150 local charities ranging from The American Red Cross to Harvest Hope Food Bank. In 2020, the Jim Hudson Automotive Group fed its 8 millionth meal through Harvest Hope and looks forward to hitting 9 million in 2021.
Jim Hudson’s community spirit also benefits members of the military and first responders. As a veteran, Jim is committed to helping members of the military purchase and maintain their cars and trucks.
“Members of the military and first responders receive true discounts on parts and services whether they bought their car from us or not,” says Josh. “Employee pricing is what they pay for a car. We want to do all we can to help.”