In the 1960s, the oil fields of west Texas and east New Mexico were pickup country.
But that didn't stop Jack Price from opening his first Volkswagen dealership in rural Hobbs, N.M., in 1967. Price, 76, a revered auto dealer in New Mexico, died June 16. The cause was pancreatic cancer, his son, Randy, said.
"Those guys are used to driving big cars, and he was selling little round cars, so they were the weird car on the road," Randy Price said. "But he made it work."
Jack Price was an energetic salesman, and his passion was selling cars. In 1975 he sold the dealership, moved from Hobbs, bought a Volkswagen dealership in Albuquerque and renamed it University Volkswagen.
In an era when many dealers began forming megadealerships, Price remained focused on his Albuquerque store. He later added a Mazda franchise -- but on the same site, so he could keep interacting with his customers and his staff.
To have many locations, said Randy Price, "you had to quit selling cars. You had to quit talking to customers. And that was what my dad really enjoyed: talking to customers and knowing his employees' names."
Jack Price was a "walking history" of the automotive retail business in New Mexico, said Charles Henson, president of the New Mexico Automotive Dealers Association.
For 16 years, Price was on the board of the National Automobile Dealers Association. He was an active and influential member of the New Mexico and Albuquerque dealers associations, serving in many capacities on the boards of those organizations through the years.
He was also a leader among Volkswagen dealers nationally. Despite his fierce loyalty to the Volkswagen brand, he was never afraid to criticize VW's North American leadership, said Joe Folz, a longtime member of the Volkswagen North America legal team and the current secretary and general counsel for Porsche Cars North America.