All posts by Jim Dvorak

Managing Director of SOEC since 2005. Veteran of the Southern California automotive scene. Involvement with Saleen dates back to the mid 1990s.

NORTHWEST’S LARGEST AUTO COMPANY EXPANDS WITH MERGER

Damerow Ford Joins Thomason Auto Group Under Asbury Auto Group Banner

PORTLAND, Ore.–(BUSINESS WIRE)–Jan. 14, 1999–Damerow Beaverton Ford, the Pacific Northwest’s largest Ford dealer, has announced a merger with Asbury Automotive LLC (Asbury), whose headquarters is located near Philadelphia.

In May, 1998, Thomason Auto Group of Portland, the largest automobile multi-dealership in the Pacific Northwest also merged with Asbury and formed Asbury Oregon Automotive (Asbury Oregon).

Scott Thomason said the two local dealerships, operating under the Asbury umbrella, will have sales nearing $1 billion by the year 2000.

With the addition of Damerow to its other 90 franchises, Asbury becomes the third largest auto retailer in the nation with 1998 annualized revenues of $3.2 billion.

When the merger is completed, Thomason Auto Group and Damerow will hold the number one local market sales position in every one of the following brand categories: Ford, Honda, Hyundai, Mazda, Nissan, Subaru, Suzuki and Toyota.

Thomason is president and chief executive officer of Asbury Oregon. Roderick Livesay is chief operating officer and chief financial officer of Asbury Oregon. They will work with John Francis who remains as senior vice president and general manager of Damerow Beaverton Ford. Francis also will be responsible for the Ford Motor Company relationship for Asbury Oregon.

Thomason said the merger will strengthen the position of Thomason and Damerow, giving customers greater selection, lower costs and better service.

Damerow executives George R. (Randy) Francis, long-time president of the company, and his son, John Francis, were instrumental in the merger decision. Financial terms were not disclosed regarding the merger, which should be completed by March 31, 1999.

Damerow’s 1998 sales were nearly $175 million, making it the leader among Ford dealerships in the Pacific Northwest. The company employs 280 and occupies 15 acres of property at its various dealership sites in Beaverton. The Damerow dealership headquarters is located at 12325 S.W. Canyon Road in Beaverton.

Asbury Oregon Shows Significant Growth

Together with Thomason Auto Group, Asbury Oregon projects $850 million in sales in 1999. The combined companies will have approximately 1,200 employees.

“The goal of the merger is to provide customers with lower prices and better service,” said John Francis.

“In addition to advantages for our customers, it will bring more opportunities for many of our employees,” Francis continued.

Thomason said, “Our merger with Asbury Auto Group gave us the capital needed for expansion. This is the first step in our expansion plans and we are very excited about it.”

“Consolidation is occurring in the auto sales industry,” Thomason said. “We can offer our customers economies of scale and we can maintain strong local sales, marketing and services with less threat of domination by an outside force.”

In addition to strengthening Asbury’s position in the Northwest, the Damerow acquisition also provides Asbury with a major entry into the growing Beaverton market.

Damerow: Beaverton Success Story

The Francis family has been involved in the automobile sales and service business since 1913 when the Francis Motor Company opened its doors on Grand Avenue in northeast Portland. The company was founded by Randy Francis’s uncle, C.E. Francis. Randy’s father, George L. Francis, later joined his brother and became general manager. The company eventually grew into one of the largest Ford dealerships in the nation.

In 1952, Herb Damerow was awarded the Ford franchise in Beaverton and asked Randy to join him. The Damerow location appeared to offer a better career opportunity and Randy accepted a management position there in 1955. Herb Damerow died in 1958 and Randy Francis purchased the dealership.

“It’s been my life. I’ve always been fond of the industry and it has always fascinated me, even in the beginning when I was involved as a race car driver,” Randy Francis said.

John Francis has been in the auto sales and service business for 31 years. He graduated from Oregon State University with a degree in business and returned to the family’s dealership to advance from assistant new car manager to new car manager. He then joined a business partner to purchase Gresham Ford and they sold that business to Brian Bickmore in 1989. Francis returned to Damerow to become a partner, senior vice president and general manager.

Thomason Ranks Nationally

Thomason Auto Group began as a single Ford dealership that Scott Thomason purchased from his father. Since that time, the company has entered the top tier of dealerships in the nation. Last year, the company sold over 27,500 vehicles. Net annual sales have climbed from $240 million in 1993 to approximately $545 million in 1998. Thomason ranked number 32 among the nation’s 22,000 dealerships in 1997.

[Source: Business Wire]