At first glance, dealer Curt Wilcher might be a good candidate for a Ford Motor Co. buyout in Indianapolis.
At 65, he is a member of the old guard of automotive retailing. And he knows he cannot stop the profound changes reshaping the business.
'It would be fine for me, except I am not ready to quit,' said Wilcher, owner of Wilcher Ford Sales Inc. in Mooresville, about six miles from the Interstate loop where he expects Ford to build megastores.
'I am the first guy at work in the morning. I thoroughly enjoy it,' Wilcher said. 'But I do not fit the new world as well as younger people. I have to accept that. If it comes time to make a change, I will not be the one making an objection.'
Wilcher describes himself as 'one of those totally self-made people.'
After repairing and selling old cars in high school, he knew what life held in store for him: He wanted to be 'a car man.'
At 23, he had worked hard enough selling Lincoln and Mercury cars for Strickland Motors in Indianapolis to save $8,000. A bank loaned him $2,000. He invested in a Ford dealership before he even bought a home.
'The dealership was selling four cars a month,' Wilcher said. 'The first month I was there, I ordered 18. We sold the cars.' Today the dealership sells about 900 new and used vehicles annually.
Wilcher admits to lying awake at night. He knows that automotive retailing is changing rapidly. But he worries about his loyal employees. His service manager has worked at his side for 20 years. His office assistant has worked with him for 30 years.
'This is a close-knit family,' he said.
'I would have continued indefinitely,' Wilcher said. 'My daughter and grandson work in the dealership. I had kind of hoped they would be able to carry this on. But the world is changing very fast. Ford feels this is the future. Life goes on.'