Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Tulsa Ford Dealers Merge

Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Tulsa Ford Dealers Merge

Article excerpt

TULSA -- History was made Monday when eight car dealers merged with a subsidiary of the Ford Motor Co. to develop a single dealership covering all of metropolitan Tulsa.

Still operating under the working title of Ford Retail Network, the dealership will be made up of six Ford, two Lincoln-Mercury, a Mazda and a Jaguar dealerships.

They merged with Ford Investment Enterprises Corp., a minority stockholder in the new dealership. Exact breakdown was not revealed, although each of the former individual dealers hold equal shares.

Ultimately, the goal is to make the dealership a publicly owned corporation, said Ross Roberts, president of Ford Investment Enterprises Corp.

Roberts, who was vice president of Ford Motor and general manager of the Ford Car and Truck Division until his promotion in May, called the arrangement "something that's never been done before."

Two other cities had been approached with the idea, but it failed. "Don Thornton called and asked if we would try it in Tulsa," Roberts said. "All the dealers were behind it 100 percent, so we brought to experiment here."

Thornton is president of former Don Thornton Ford of Tulsa and chairman and CEO of the Tulsa Ford Retail Network.

Although dealers in Salt Lake City initially rejected the idea, now that it is a done deal in Tulsa, they are renegotiating, Roberts said.

The second Ford Retail Network, this time with Lincoln-Mercury dealers only, is to open in San Diego County, Calif., next month. "We are discussing the concept in other cities, but we prefer not to disclose which ones until we have the dealers committed," Roberts said.

Indianapolis dealers were the first to reject the concept. "What happened there is that we went in to talk with the dealers, they didn't come to us," Roberts said. "I think that is what made the difference there."

With the merger of all the Ford franchises in Tulsa, the new dealership has 965 employees, anticipates selling 24,000 new and used cars and trucks annually and have annual revenues "approaching $400 million to $500 million," Thornton said during a ceremony to formally announce the deal.

"That will make us the biggest dealer for Ford Motor Co. in the world," he said. "But being the biggest is not what this is all about. We want to be the best, the best people, the best selection and, most importantly, the best in customer service.

"We shouldn't measure how good we are by the number of vehicles we sell in a year. Instead, we should measure ourselves by the number of second- and third-time buyers who come back to our dealerships because they are satisfied customers."

Wednesday is a special day for Oklahoma and for Ford, said Gov. Frank Keating, keynote speaker for the ceremony.

Noting that Roberts was a 1960 graduate of the University of Oklahoma and a Chickasaw Indian, Keating said that Ford has always had an important place "in the Oklahoma landscape. …

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