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How to be a dealer in 1912


JAK
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I've been studying some local history from the 1912 to 15 period. Seems there were a number of garages selling cars of different make. This is a small 

farm community however at that time period there was considerable traffic passing through. I suspect you could buy a sign and call yourself a dealer but

that is speculation on my part. Anybody know?  Most adds were for Maxwell,Overland, Buick, Studebaker and some others. Ford was already well established.

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I have a newspaper reprint that says a local farm implements dealer became a Ford dealer in 1918.  This is in PA, about 20miles East of Hershey.  In rural areas I’m sure a lot of wagon or implement dealers became automobile dealers.  Here is a receipt from the dealer.

 

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I think all you had to do to become a dealer in the early days was purchase a vehicle. You'll see in early ads that "territories are available" everywhere. I think a lot of folks jumped in early without any real experience running this type of business with the intent of making a quick buck and nobody really knew how long this fad would last.

 

I do know Ford was the first manufacturer to eventually demand its dealers drop other makes and concentrate on Ford cars exclusively. Given their Model Ts sales performance, I don't think too many dealers refused and risked loosing that Ford franchi$e!

 

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Yes, that was my question. With the exception of the local Ford dealer the others were either garage owners on in other businesses, none we implement dealers so far as I can tell.

 

Thanks

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Early on, there were few auto dealers, so cars were most often purchased directly from the factory. What I've read in several places is that in rural areas if a person purchased a single car, and indicated an interest in representing the make in his area, a dealership was often included. Makes sense, as the automaker would have a vested interest in getting new dealerships started, and the purchaser would have a car to demonstrate.

Some of the early Floyd Clymer books discuss this.

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5 minutes ago, gwells said:

Early on, there were few auto dealers, so cars were most often purchased directly from the factory. What I've read in several places is that in rural areas if a person purchased a single car, and indicated an interest in representing the make in his area, a dealership was often included. Makes sense, as the automaker would have a vested interest in getting new dealerships started, and the purchaser would have a car to demonstrate.

Some of the early Floyd Clymer books discuss this.

 

I was just going to mention Floyd Clymer famously became a Ford dealer in 1910 at age 14 in Greely, Colorado.

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Sort of a related story, RAJO was an overhead valve accessory head for a Model T Ford, sold at speed shops or accessory stores. True story a fellow told me at Hershey back in the 1970s. He had saved up the $200 or whatever it cost to buy a RAJO and walked into the local distributor's shop. There on the floor was the shop owner killed in a robbery! Police arrived and he was a suspect, but quickly cleared, when his previous whereabouts were confirmed. He still wanted a RAJO head, and called the factory. He told the party on the other end what happened to the local agent and asked were the nearest agent was. The factory asked him for his mailing address, he WAS the new local distributor!

 

Bob 

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In the early decades, to establish dealerships in smaller rural towns and crossroad, anyone who bought a car and was willing to represent the make could get a franchise, that's how eager companies were to build a dealer network. Wagon repair and blacksmith, even hardware stores took a franchise for a variety of makes, except Ford who wanted them to be exclusive. The entrepreneur taking on the dealership better have a garage or at least small shop and be mechanically handy or have someone who was because cars were frequently shipped only partly assembled on pallets to save shipping costs. Farm implement dealers were a good choice given their location and familiarity with complex machinery.

 

Upstarts of all sorts even into the 1920s like Durant granted dealership to any little crossroad operator just to get coverage. Of course, most didn't make enough to survive long on sales as the industry shook out, fell back to used cars after their make failed. Even our little town of a few hundred had a Star-Durant dealership in the 1920s out of a one- stall garage. In trade publications, in the lower right corner were clip-out invitations to apply for a dealership by mail.  

 

Wonder if I'm ever going the hear from Graham-Paige? I sent my notice of interest regarding their offer of dealerships in profitable areas in years ago...

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The "Lincoln Highway Garage" opened in 1915 on one of the final sections of the new Lincoln Highway in Livermore California. The building still exists (owned last I heard by the Livermore Heritage Guild), and over forty years ago was restored to look very much as it does in this photo! Check the windows. It was a Durant/Star dealership in the '20s.

 

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