Remembering Charlie

June 11th, 2020 by

 

It is with the deepest sadness that we share the loss of a founding member of our Mercedes-Benz of Sugar Land Family Charles ‘Charlie’ Johnson. In honor of the contributions, leadership and friendship he exemplified we would like to share a piece written a few years ago for a feature about Charlie and the legacy he helped create at our dealership.   

 – Charlie –

As we head up to the training room to meet with Charlie Johnson, we’re immediately struck with how silent it is. It’s a big change from the hypnotic rhythm of the roaring machinery in the service area, and an intimidating space for three people to be in. “Tell us about your role at Mercedes-Benz of Sugar Land”, we ask Charlie. He takes a deep breath before answering. “Well, I’m the Shop Foreman. I handle the cars once they get in the shop and determine the next steps to take with problem vehicles.” The list continues, “Other parts of my work include speaking to clients, assisting in sales, parts, wholesale, B2C questions — everything.”

With almost 40 years working exclusively with Mercedes-Benz, Charles has gained knowledge from every angle of the brand and it hasn’t gone unnoticed. Charlie was the first Master-Certified Mercedes-Benz technician in Houston – the first and only in the program’s inaugural year in 1990. In the years that followed, he also made MBUSA’s Master Guild three times, which recognizes and rewards the top 30 Mercedes-Benz technicians in the country.

The path to becoming a Master-Certified Mercedes-Benz technician seemed natural. “Since I was about 5 or 6 years old I’ve been taking toys apart and putting them back together. Then I did the same with my first motorcycle and car as I got older,” Charlie says. “After taking Auto Mechanics in high school, I went to an automotive vocational school for 15 months and then went to work at a Mercedes-Benz dealership as a trainee.” We ask if Mercedes-Benz has been the only brand he imagined working for from the beginning. “It’s my only love” Charlie says, almost singing.

“How often would you say the technicians come to you with questions?” we ask, suspecting what the answer will be. He responds accordingly, “Everyday. Constantly. But I have to be right 99% of the time, or better, if possible. It’s difficult to do with the complexity of the cars. That’s the challenge – the very intermittent things.” Charlie then excuses himself to answer an important phone call. We assume it’s important because the page tone is ear-piercing and sounds similar to an emergency siren. “Hey, brother” we hear faintly come from the other line. The caller is Charlie’s boss, Steve Stojack, who has a question about the 2017 E-Class. Charlie provides his answers with no hesitation, and begins to laugh, “Is that all? I’m in the middle of my spotlight interview!” We can hear Steve laugh in response on the other line. “Take care, my brother” Steve says before the call ends. You get an idea of how close people are at MBSL.

We ask if Charlie can describe the dealership. “It’s the best,” he immediately responds. “I’ve only worked for 4 dealerships throughout my career, but MBSL is by far the best. I think the owner, Ken Enders, cares deeply about all of his employees. I’ve been here from the day this place opened.” As the interview comes to a close, we are struck by how open Charlie has been. The initial coldness of the training room quickly disappeared with his genial presence. We proceed to head downstairs for a photo.

The thing about working in the service department is that the atmosphere makes it very difficult to have a photo shoot inside. A typical day is conquered through a team effort, and any amount of individual attention draws notice. There we were, attempting to discreetly shuffle into Charlie’s office for a quick head shot. Within seconds, curious colleagues began to poke their heads inside, some providing playful distractions and offering their critiques on posing. Charlie kindly allowed us to take our time. “Hold on, I want to make sure the photos of my children are in the shot, too,” he states as he arranges his work space. Within a minute, we get our shot, capturing Charlie’s warm, resounding laugh in the process.

Rest in peace dear Charlie. We miss you.

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