DETROIT — Bill Garcia and Felipe Mendiola have seen Subaru evolve from an unknown commodity to a popular brand over the last four decades as Midwestern retailers.
And operating Hodges Subaru in Metro Detroit, in the shadow of the domestic auto industry, where tens of thousands of families have long-standing loyalties to Ford, Chevrolet and Dodge, has been a test at times for the location's co-owners.
It wasn't uncommon for a passing motorist to yell obscenities or anti-Japanese sentiment at either Garcia or the store.
"People would drive by and shout at us," Garcia recalled.
But those moments didn't deter him or Mendiola.
The store began selling Subarus in 1972, relatively soon after the brand entered the U.S. It has been offering Subarus exclusively since 1981 — a time when U.S.-Japan trade friction generated sparks and Japan's automakers routinely were blamed for job losses in and around Detroit.
Hodges stuck it out and ultimately expanded.
Today, it markets itself as "Metro Detroit's Subaru only dealer" in ads. Before acquiring the Subaru franchise, Hodges sold DeSotos, Triumphs, Renaults, Peugeots and Saabs, all from a small dealership in Ferndale, just north of Detroit.
In those early days, many Subaru stores were in gas station-sized buildings. Hodges' cramped showroom could fit just two vehicles. But as volume grew, the store ran out of sales space and service capacity. The company began using a nearby satellite building to handle the expanding service business.
In 2015, Hodges moved a mile down the road to its current location in Ferndale, just north of the intersection of Detroit's Woodward Avenue and 8 Mile Road, where it more than tripled its space.