By JIM PARKER

The Post and Courier

After maintaining its streak of earning Lexus’ top dealership award every year since 1996, David Yarborough tried to put the string into perspective.

He likened the lofty status to the ongoing NCAA College Basketball championship tourney, aka March Madness, which has been winnowed down to four teams.

“Gosh, you know how hard it is to get to the Final Four,” he said. “Then repeat (17 times),” said Yarborough, general manager at Lexus of Charleston.

That’s how many years in a row the Charleston dealership has been named to the Elite of Lexus lineup of success. The store learned about the 2012 distinction late last month. The award, which comes from the manufacturer, is handed out yearly to about one-quarter of the dealerships nationwide.

What makes the most recent title even more significant is Lexus of Charleston, at 2424 Savannah Highway, placed No. 1 out of 236 dealerships across the country in one of the judging categories. The store finished the year with a 100 percent score in new-car customer satisfaction index, or CSI. In other words, the dealership posted top-notch sales numbers and no complaints from customers concerning new cars all of 2012. It ranked in the mid to high 90 percent range in other categories such as service.

“That’s quite a feat,” Yarborough said. “Not only do you have to have your CSI objectives but sales goals, too.” As it turned out, “We had our best year in sales since 2006,” he said. The prior season, Lexus as a company took a hit from the earthquake and tsunami that wracked northern Japan early in 2011.

Also in 2012, Lexus of Charleston made the inaugural list of 100 Best Dealerships to Work For as compiled by respected industry trade magazine Automotive News.

“It was a real comeback year,” he said.

Lexus of Charleston is part of Charlotte-based Hendrick Automotive Group, which all told has a dozen stores in the Lowcountry.

“We try to keep everybody happy,” said Mike Warren, general sales manager.

Just as one year is over, Lexus of Charleston is focused on the next. “We are off and running,” Yarborough said, citing how the dealership held its perfect CSI score through the first quarter of 2013 and had a 98.4 percent rating for service.

“Everyone takes it very seriously,” Warren said. “We keep people abreast of the scores.” The two managers agreed that they want to hear from customers, whether it’s a good report or not so favorable.

“If we get a negative reaction, we (can) overcome it, and make it right,” Warren said.

As in past years, Lexus of Charleston hosts a “formal sit-down dinner” for its employees and families to celebrate the Elite status, Yarborough said. Every associate receives a gift and a certificate of appreciation, Warren said.

Also in May, Yarborough and the other winning dealers will be feted at a banquet in Santa Barbara, Calif.

“I’m looking forward to it,” he said. “It’s a fun trip.”

For more information, visit www.lexusofcharleston.com.

Reach Jim Parker at 937-5542 or jparker@postandcourier.com