The Van Tuyl Group of Phoenix, the nation's fifth-largest dealership group and the largest privately held one, had humble beginnings.
Founder Cecil Van Tuyl got his start in the auto industry in the 1940s selling used cars in Kansas City, Mo.
He opened his first new-car dealership in 1955, a Chevrolet store in Kansas City, Mo., and his second in 1960 in Quincy, Ill.
The Van Tuyl Group was on the grow.
Van Tuyl's son, Larry, joined the family business in 1971 at age 21 and had three dealerships of his own before he turned 30. The younger Van Tuyl took on the lead role in the operation in 2005 and currently is CEO.
In a February 1997 Automotive News story, the elder Van Tuyl admitted that he had seriously considered taking the group public. That year, the group, then headquartered in Shawnee Mission, Kan., ranked as the third-largest dealership group in the United States, with a total of 34 dealerships, retail sales of 56,966 new vehicles and $2.4 billion in revenues, according to the 1997 Automotive News Top 100 Dealer Group listing.
"We have been considering it, yes, and we have been for quite some time," he told Automotive News from his Shawnee Mission office. "We're not sure at this time whether it would be the appropriate thing for us to do. But, yes, we do consider it."
Later, he explained why the company rejected the option of going public.
"We studied it and looked at it and looked at it and decided not to. It's better to be a private company because you can do so many things without being criticized by stockholders and other controlling people of public companies," he told Automotive News in 2007.
The Van Tuyl dealership group is made up of two legal entities: V.T. Inc. and Automotive Investment Group.
Early on, the Van Tuyls established a business model of rewarding dealership managers with part ownership.
Each Van Tuyl dealership is a separate legal entity. There are individual partnerships with each dealer-operator and each dealership operates independently of the other dealerships.
Cecil Van Tuyl died on Nov. 20, 2012, at age 85. In 1982, the company's headquarters had moved to Phoenix, in part because of Larry Van Tuyl's bronchial asthma.
In 2013, the group had 75 dealerships that retailed 130,447 new vehicles and 89,093 used vehicles while generating almost $8 billion in revenues.