Ed Mullinax, a longtime Ohio auto dealer who pioneered one-price, no-haggle selling, died Aug. 4. He was 85.
Mullinax — named one of the industry's 50 Visionary Dealers by Automotive News in 2009 — caught other dealers' attention in the 1970s when he moved to one-price selling.
In 1968, Mullinax bought a minority stake in an Ford dealership in Ohio. Two years later, he bought his own Ford store in Amherst, Ohio.
In 1975, Mullinax became the first dealer to institute an unorthodox approach to auto retailing. By going to a one-price, no-haggle selling policy, he sought to remove a major point of tension in vehicle shopping. "I told the managers, 'You price the car to where we won't sell it for a cent less or a cent more,' " Mullinax told Automotive News in 1996. On the day he started the policy, the dealership sold 40 cars during its first five hours, Mullinax said.
Mullinax watched his business mushroom into a five-store group. He became one of the largest Ford retailers in the U.S.
His unconventional approach drew the interest of Republic Industries Inc. founder H. Wayne Huizenga. Republic was building a dealership group, now known as AutoNation, by buying groups of stores in key markets. Toward the end of 1996, AutoNation acquired Mullinax's dealerships in a deal valued at $100 million.
Mullinax, along with his two sons, Jerry and Larry, joined AutoNation. Ed left in 1997, Jerry followed suit in 1999 and Larry left in 2000.
After leaving AutoNation, the family decided to start a new network of dealerships. The brothers returned to the one-price approach and trademarked a new name for it: "Upfront Pricing."
Now, Mullinax Auto Group operates seven Ford stores: five in Florida; one in Olympia, Wash.; and one in Mobile, Ala.