Farley accumulates fascinating facts over the years

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ORLANDO -- Jim Farley didn't join Ford Motor Co. until November 2007. But Ford's executive vice president of global marketing, sales, service and the Lincoln brand has already amassed a wealth of historical knowledge and trivia about the company and its dealers around the world.

Holding court with journalists at Ford's Salute to Dealers event Friday night at the Ritz-Carlton in Orlando, Farley asked reporters to guess which state has the most dealerships that have been in the same family for 100 years or more. Some answered Michigan. Others said Indiana or Texas. All wrong.

The answer, Farley said, was Minnesota.

Farley, who has been regaled in one rural dealership with stories and old pictures of dealership employees demonstrating how to use the Model T as a farm implement, said he wasn't sure why Minnesota has so many 100-year dealers. "They're northern Europeans and they are really careful with their money," he said.

These days as he jets around the world in his global job, Farley is learning the variety of different cultural traditions for delivering to customers.

"In India, it takes at least 30 to 40 minutes to go through the religious ceremony" to bless the car, he said. The blessings include garlands of flowers. In China, "the whole family comes so you have to entertain them." That includes grandfathers, grandmothers, aunts and uncles.

At its Salute to Dealers Friday, Ford honored the charity work of some of its far-flung dealers around the globe, including Turkey and Brazil. The prize for farthest distance traveled went to Kittivut Chairat, owner of the Ford Chokechai Sukhothai dealership in Sukjothai, Thailand. He traveled more than 30 hours to reach Orlando to receive his honor.

Chairat's activities show that philanthropic giving differs vastly around the globe. Among the causes to which Chairat has given money: building fish hatcheries and building huts in which children can grow mushrooms.

You can reach Bradford Wernle at bwernle@crain.com.

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