ADA — It’s been a hard year for Cole Motor Sales. The small-town Ford dealership, which has passed through four generations of the Cole family since its founding in the early 1900s, has been losing money all year. Sales are down. The costs of doing business are rising. And there doesn’t appear to be an end in sight.
Those trends pushed the Coles to make a difficult decision: The dealership is set to close Friday.
“The automobile industry is a tough industry,” said Cathy Cole, who has managed the dealership alongside her father, Steve, for nearly two decades.
Cole has watched the industry evolve since she first started working for her father 24 years ago.
Business was steady then, with strong retail sales and trade-ins sustaining the dealership in the 1990s. The dealership had strong customer loyalty too, a trend which is reversing as many of its customers are aging, and young buyers are turning elsewhere.
But Cole says it’s getting harder and harder to find quality used cars at a price her customers can afford.
The cost of servicing vehicles is rising too, as the technology required to perform diagnostic tests on newer Ford vehicles becomes more advanced. And with new vehicles requiring less maintenance, Cole says the dealership has to depend more and more on retail sales, which have been soft for several years.
“This year has been slower in sales than I’ve ever seen it … every month we lose a little bit of money. Finally, I just decided it was time to stop losing money,” Cole explained.
The family dealership was founded in the early 1900s by Cole’s great-grandfather, Charles Cole, who sold Fords within a 100-mile radius of Ada, according to dealership archives.
The business was temporarily sold off after Charles’s death but reopened under the Cole name in 1934. The dealership has since passed through four generations of the Cole family – Charles, Robert Sr., Steve and now Cathy – and has continued operating out of the same garage since 1915.
While the Ford brand thrived in Ada, Cole said it’s simply too expensive for her to do business today. And she can’t offer the selection that larger dealers do, given the constraints of operating in a small market.
“We had a lot of loyal customers through the years, and we really appreciate that,” she said. “It’s been tough because we have customers coming in sad that we’re going.”
Reach Mackenzi Klemann at 567-242-0456.