Mel Farr, owner of the Mel Farr Automotive Group in suburban Detroit, had gross sales of $573 million in 1997, making him No. 1 on Black Enterprise's 1998 B.E. Auto Dealer 100 list for the second year running.
Black Enterprise ranks the largest black-owned businesses in terms of the previous year's dollar sales in several categories including automobile dealerships.
Farr's automotive group placed 54th on the 1998 Automotive News Top 100 Dealer Groups list.
That list ranks dealers on new-vehicle sales for the previous calendar year. Farr operates Ford, Lincoln, Mercury, Chevrolet, Toyota, Volkswagen, Hyundai, Suzuki and Mazda franchises in Michigan, Ohio, Texas, New Jersey and Maryland.
No. 2 on the B.E. Auto Dealer 100 list is Chicago Truck Center Inc., which racked up $223 million in sales in 1997. The company, owned by dealer Robert Hatcher, sold about 6,500 new GMC and Volvo trucks last year.
Hatcher, 47, became a truck dealer five years ago, after spending 18 years at GMC. He said he zeroed in on truck franchises because he was impressed by the diversity of customers who buy trucks and because truck sales can weather any economic climate.
Hatcher attributes his success to his employees and says they take good care of his customers.
'Our customer retention rate is just shy of 100 percent,' Hatcher said. 'My philosophy is pretty simple. I tell my employees, 'If you think I would do it, then do it.' I never criticize them for making a decision that takes care of a customer.'
Richard Davis, the 48-year-old CEO of Davis Automotive Inc., is Black Enterprise's Auto Dealer of the Year. Davis operates Buick, GMC, Oldsmobile, Honda and Hyundai stores in Bloomington, Ind., and Dallas and Garland, Texas.
Davis, a dealer for 14 years, placed 24th on the list with sales of $64.3 million in 1997.
According to Black Enterprise, those on the B.E. Auto Dealer 100 list had a 6.26 percent decline in sales from $5.93 billion in 1996 to $5.55 billion in 1997.
To qualify for the Black Enterprise lists, a business must have been fully operational the previous year and must be at least 51 percent African-American owned.
The list appears in the June issue of the publication.