Things have changed quite a bit for the auto industry in the past 150 years or so. We’ve gone from 20 and 40mph vehicles to cars that go over 265mph and from dust jackets and motor goggles to voice activated climate control. Just look how far Bentley has come:
Instead of flipping the pages of a catalog with used cars for sale, shoppers are using Mojo Motors to ‘Follow’ their favorite cars, receive alerts when prices drop and see how many other people are ‘Following’ car they want.
We appreciate innovation and to survive over one hundred years, these 10 dealerships have adapted to the changing industry. They’ve jumped onto new ideas and continued to push forward. Case in point: some of the top 10 oldest dealerships in America according to NADA started out as blacksmiths, woodworkers or bicycle makers. They adapted to suit the needs of their customers, and that’s what we’re all about, too.
Here are your Top 10 Oldest Car Dealerships in the U.S. that are still in business today and one of them is actually on Mojo Motors! Hat tip to Ferman Auto!
If you decide to visit any of these dealerships, remember, they are automobile dealers now and may become confused if you tell them you want to ‘Follow’ their carriages, farm instruments or sleighs on Mojo.
NADA’s records say that Hugh Diehl, along with his partner Simpson began in 1900, but there’s very little information about Hugh Diehl’s work before he received a Ford franchise in 1908. We aren’t sure what he did for eight years prior to the franchise, but it was likely a similar profession to the next nine dealers on the list. On the other hand, you can always just make that part one of those choose-your-own adventure stories.
Bavarian Joseph Eich was one of the first settlers in St. Cloud, MN. He sold farm equipment and his son Alois jumped straight to selling gasoline engine vehicles, having completely written off electric engines. Today Eich Motor Co. is the only one of these companies not still family-run; in 2012 Eich Motors switched to employee ownership after four generations of family-run business. Watch their video on Youtube with the complete history here.
Oswin Spencer Hill sold farm equipment until 1939 when his son Donald added the Navistar International truck franchise. In fact, Hill continued to sell farm equipment, trucks and trailers until 1956. Today they’ve expanded into three locations in Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia.
Fred Ferman started a business called Tampa Cycle and Co., where he would rent his bicycle out to customers for 25 cents an hour or $1 a day. After he and an employee built 2 vehicles from bicycle parts, Ferman sought to enter the auto industry. After selling cameras to soldiers leaving for the Spanish-American War, he acquired enough capital to launch his dealership in 1902. If you’re interested, Ferman Motors has a very comprehensive online history of the company, complete with tons of pictures.
In 1885 A.J. Moser sold steam engines and threshing machines. By 1914 he moved to selling and servicing Ford tractors. Eventually he left those behind, too, and now Moser Motors sells new and used Ford vehicles.
On every great American list, there’s always a Canadian somewhere. Originally from Montreal, Amable Normandin was a buggy and sleigh maker until he started selling horseless carriages in 1906. If you’re ever in San Jose, there’s an original 1915 Franklin still in the show room and a Normandin buggy from 1882 on the roof. In case you were wondering, the horses are not kept on the roof.
4. 1875 / Kemmann Chevrolet, Inc. / Lowden, IA
H.D. Kemmann was a blacksmith who also sold farm implements. He and his sons moved to selling cars in 1923 and kept the business a small. Even today they still have five employees.
Ephraim Reynolds was a carriage maker who held on to the carriage business until 1915 when his son convinced him to open a small auto repair shop as well. Good thing, or the Reynolds’ business would have gone extinct and never have made this list, which surely they’ve been aspiring to do all along.
George M. Schaefer began as a blacksmith and woodworker in 1852 and he never sold a single car. In fact, it wasn’t until 62 years later that his company became involved in the auto industry. Woodworking is pretty cool, after all. In 1954 Duane Bierlin bought out Schaefer’s previous partner Rummel and later bought out Schaefer too but kept the name as a tribute to the company.
Not all of these dealerships have released old pictures, but this is a good one of W. Hare and Son, Inc. when it was still a carriage business. Wesley Hare started out making and selling wagons and carriages under the not wildly creative but very acceptable name Carriage and Wagon Works. Once Hare’s two sons joined him, the name changed to the sensible W.Hare and Son, Inc. That name remains even though it isn’t fitting. The dealership is now run by Hare’s great-great-great granddaughters, Courtney and Monica.
Written by Sara Price
Photo Source: Car and Driver, Frankenmuth car blog, Reynolds Garage and Marine, Lost in Iowa, Normandin Chrysler Jeep, Moser Motors, Ferman Motors Facebook, Hill International Trucks Facebook, Eich Motors Youtube, Diehl Ford, carswallpaper, sodahead, Bentley