RICHMOND, VA - History is in the air at a storied dealership on West Broad Street in this old capital of the Confederacy.
It's Richmond Motor Co., a Ford dealership in Richmond, VA, since 1916, only 13 years after Ford Motor Co. was incorporated.
It's a highly successful father-and-son dealership, whose 73-year-old president and CEO, Robert C. King, Sr., sits proudly below a portrait of his great-grandfather in a Confederate Army officer's uniform.
"My father, Rock King, co-founded this dealership with three partners downtown at 1000 East Broad when he was 23 years old," notes Mr. King. "He was the youngest Ford dealer in the country.
"But, would you believe, Ford opened another Ford franchise at the same time at 1000 West Broad - Universal Ford - just 20 blocks away? The town was overdealered by Ford then and still has too many Ford dealers."
By 1941, Rock King was able to buy out his partners for $25,000 each. The same year 15-year-old Bob King joined the dealership full-time, spent mainly pumping gasoline. This marks his 58th year with Richmond Motor.
"I'm proud of the fact, besides our longevity, that Richmond Motor has been such a regular on the Ward's Top 500 rankings," says Mr. King.
"We fought it out with Bert Boeckmann (CEO of Galpin Ford, North Hills, CA) for Ford national sales leadership in the mid-1980s. We've fallen off, but 451st on this year's 500 beats out a lot of other guys."
As a dealership with only two CEOs in 83 years, Richmond Motor has occupied exactly two locations. It moved to a then-undeveloped side of town in 1960, just four years before general manager Doug Hall joined the dealership and two years before parts manager Bill Roe signed on.
"What accounts for our success, through wars and depressions and poor products and sometimes tough factory policies," says Mr. King, "is hiring the best people available. That, and our record of continuity. It sounds simple, but it really isn't.
"With 10 Ford dealerships in this market, we managed to do $66.8 million in total dollars last year, delivering 1,681 new and 1,811 used units.
"That's also why we've stayed strictly with the Ford franchise - no Lincoln Mercury, no other stores, right here at 4600 West Broad. Tradition counts, and we're doing pretty good in the profits department, too."
The truck/van/SUV segment dominated cars by a margin of more than two to one in 1998 at Richmond Motor. A dedicated new-truck center delivered 1,127 new units, compared to 554 new vehicles in the car showroom.
The used-vehicle total, moreover, exceeded the total new-unit share by 1,811 to 1,681. The dealership sells used vehicles from a dedicated facility.
"I think cars will be coming back in the next few years," forecasts Mr. King. "The new Focus and Thunderbird and an updated Crown Victoria are going to give the Ford car line a big lift."