March/Hodge Automotive, which operates 22 dealerships in seven states, is the largest black-owned dealership group in the United States, according to Black Enterprise magazine's annual "B.E. Auto Dealer 100" list.
March/Hodge Automotive is owned by co-CEOs Tony March and Ernest Hodge and is based in Hartford, Conn. It took top honors with revenues of $427.6 million. Rankings are based on total dollar sales from all dealership departments in the previous year.
This is the first time March/Hodge has topped the list. The company was No. 4 last year, with revenues of $352.6 million. March, 52, attributes the company's revenue increases to its new Honda, Jaguar, Volvo and Land Rover stores that opened last year.
March says his company has thrived because of its strategy that allows its dealerships to be managed by a president who also owns a minority stake in the store.
"We don't try to manage our dealerships from an airplane," says March, who has been a dealer since 1985 and joined forces with Hodge in 1998.
"When a person has ownership, every time you make a dime, they make a dime; when you lose a dime, they lose a dime," he says. "When you have money at stake, you have a keener sense of running a business."
Martin Management Group of Bowling Green, Ky., is No. 2 on the list, with revenues of $402.0 million. It was third last year, with revenues of $353.1 million. Gone from this year's list are the Mel Farr Automotive Group of Ferndale, Mich., and Riverside Ford Sales Inc. of Detroit. Farr Automotive was hailed as the nation's largest black-owned dealership and largest black-owned company in 1998, with 11 franchises and revenues of $596.6 million. Farr Automotive was No. 2 on the list last year, with sales of $353.3 million.
Owner Mel Farr sold his last two new-car outlets, Kia and Hyundai, in April to Sterling Motors LLC, which is owned by Jerome-Duncan Holdings, of Sterling Heights, Mich.
Riverside Ford, owned by Nathan Conyers, had been on the Black Enterprise list for 30 consecutive years. It was one of only a handful of franchised dealerships within Detroit's city limits when it closed its doors in February after 33 years in business.
Conyers operates Jaguar of Novi in Novi, Mich., which opened in 2002.