Dealer Cecil Van Tuyl dies at 85
Cecil Van Tuyl, patriarch of the nation's largest independently owned auto dealership group, died Nov. 20 at age 85.
He opened his first dealership in 1955, managing a Chevrolet dealership in Kansas City, Mo. After he bought that store, he acquired dealerships in Quincy, Ill., and Topeka, Kan., in the early 1960s. The Van Tuyl Group was born.
His son, Larry Van Tuyl, 62, joined the company in 1971 and has had the lead role in business operations as co-CEO. The father-son duo became the foundation of the business.
The Van Tuyl Group, of Phoenix, ranks No. 5 on the Automotive News list of the top 125 U.S. dealership groups with retail sales of 96,139 new vehicles in 2011 at 69 dealerships.
Other large dealership groups went public but the Van Tuyls bucked the trend. As a private company, Cecil Van Tuyl told Automotive News in 2007, "We get 100 percent of the profit."
Dealer principals who run Van Tuyl dealerships own stakes in their stores, a practice still rare among private and public groups.
The group provides support for the dealerships with services such as finance and insurance, technology and accounting.
"Our thoughts and prayers are with the Van Tuyl family," said Ford Motor Co. CEO Alan Mulally in a statement. "Cecil was a valued member of our One Ford team and we are grateful for his leadership, partnership and friendship."
The group was an early innovator of videotaping dealership F&I transactions with customer approval to make the process transparent and was a leader in launching the Internet Automobile Dealers Association. Van Tuyl dealerships were among the first to sell cars and trucks online.
"Cecil represented the best of the auto industry ... a driven entrepreneurial spirit and a deep desire to assist everyone he knew to succeed,'' said Bob Carter, senior vice president of Toyota Motor Sales, in a statement. "The business lost a great man."