"If you really like people, and I genuinely do, you can keep the customers for generations," says Bert Boeckmann, the No. 1 Ford dealer in the world for the past 19 years. "I've got them down to the fourth generation."
The 79-year-old also holds Lincoln, Mercury, Saturn, Jaguar, Mazda, Aston Martin and Honda franchises near Los Angeles. But Galpin Ford is where Boeckmann made his name.
On this particular day, he's going through a pile of pink message slips -- he doesn't like using a computer -- checking messages from customers. One priority is to find special aftermarket equipment for a Ford pickup owned by a longtime customer named Odell. It is going to be a surprise for Odell. "I tell my employees we only have one reason to be here, and that is to serve the customers," Boeckmann says.
The German-American didn't set out to be in the car business. He went to work for a Nash dealership in 1952 while on break from the University of Southern California. That led in August 1953 to a job at Galpin Ford, where he became the top salesman within 90 days. By 1957 he was the general manager, and in 1968 he bought the place.