Seven used-car satellites have paid off hand-somely for Don Seelye Ford-Kia, Kalamazoo, MI, and its sister dealership 37 miles to the west in South Haven, MI.
Cowner Michael N. Seelye says, "With pre-owned units so desirable, it has rewarded us to blanket our market areas with sales locations that are supplied with trade-ins and vehicles bought from Midwest auctions.
"Our new and used units are supported strongly in our regular TV ads out of Kalamazoo and our weekly double-truck ad in the Kalamazoo Gazette. As my dad, Don Seelye, advised my brother Pat and myself, 'advertise . . . and they will come.'"
Used units outsold new units by 1-1/2 to 1 for Don Seelye Ford in both 1998 and 1997, years in which the 36-year-old dealership wound up 337th and 288th, respectively, on the Ward's Dealer Business 500. Last year, Seelye's used-vehicle volume over new was 2,863 to 1,727 units, and the previous year, 2,813 to 1,756.
"It's no problem for a Ford dealer outselling new with used anymore," explains Mike Seelye. "Our pre-owneds are in demand, so we step up to the market with four satellites here, including one aimed at sub- prime buyers."
The South Haven dealership, Seelye-Wright Pontiac-Buick-Cadillac-GMC-Jeep, has three satellites, including Benton Harbor, MI, 21 miles south.
After being strictly an exclusive franchise store, Don Seelye Ford added Kia in January. The Kalamazoo move followed a successful turnaround of the South Haven point, where the Seelyes and their partner there, Bill Wright, raised from 35-40 new units a month to 170-180 currently in a city of 6,000.
Don Seelye, who died in 1990, was a veteran of World War II who lost his eye in Pacific combat. Thanks to Ford Dealer Development, he purchased a downtown Ford dealership in Kalamazoo in November, 1963, two weeks before President Kennedy's assassination.
"The new Mustang was all that saved us," says Mike Seelye.
In 1971, recalls Mr. Seelye, Ford advised his father to move to the east side of town near a stamping plant.
Instead, he went to the west side on a 10-acre tract in an undeveloped area where the dealership has grown steadily.