For 14 years, Steve and Roger Porter's Thoroughbred Ford was successful despite its location in a low-income downtown area in Kansas City, Mo. But they knew their best chance for growth lay elsewhere.
In 1998 they built a new store on 7.5 acres near the Kansas City International Airport, and sales went through the roof. Their sales volume for 2000 was up 280 percent from 1997 for new vehicles and up 53 percent for used vehicles.
'Although we were very profitable downtown with a loyal clientele and extremely low rent, we knew we had to move to grow,' says Steve Porter, 51, the dealership's president, who operates Thoroughbred Ford with his twin brother, Roger, the vice president. They bought land in northern Kansas City in 1996, opened the 42,000-square-foot quarters two years later and remained a single-line dealership.
The brothers take pride in their new home and the business it attracts. The dealership, which was designed by Gensler architects in San Francisco, has enabled them to increase service, parts and body shop volume as well as vehicle sales.
Roger Porter believes that the dealership could sell even more vehicles if they were available. New-truck sales run fairly even with new cars, but he believes they could double if Ford provided an allocation more suitable to the market factors of the new location. In turn, higher sales could provide greater opportunities in the service, parts and body shop departments.
Sales of new and used vehicles were almost equal in 2000. 'Meticulous reconditioning is the key,' Roger says. 'It works year after year. We turn our used inventory twice monthly.'
The brothers believe one of their keys to success is that they are both hands-on types in the daily running of the business. Their father made a career in management at several Ford dealerships, and the brothers have been involved in the car business since they were teen-agers and have learned to deal with the ups and downs along the way.
'We eat, live and sleep the market,' Steve says. 'We're not like traditional dealers. We work this dealership; we don't have new- and used-car managers. Roger supervises all the buying, and I do all the wholesaling. We're at least at two auctions per week each. We both bid all the trade-ins.'
Steve Porter finds advantages in his customers' perception of single-point dealers.
'A single-point dealer can not only survive, but he can prosper. People like single-line dealers better. We've got a better personality. I think people like to know that a business is locally owned and controlled. We know our customers do.'
Their advice to other single-point dealers?
'Run a straight-up store,' Steve Porter says. 'Build relationships with your customers and exceed their expectations. Do favors for them, and don't always have your hand out.'
The brothers are enjoying their recent successes. They try to keep a strong cash position to weather tough times and adjust expenses according to the economy.
'We're having fun,' Steve Porter says. 'In the ghetto, we really didn't have the opportunity to showcase our talents. Manufacturers know now the guys that can walk the walk.'