GRAND RAPIDS — In just the last seven months, the Fox Motor Group has added three locations. Since the firm’s inception in late 1999, less than six years ago, Fox Motors has grown from a single Saab dealership to nine locations and 13 brands.
A few weeks ago, Fox Motors, a division of DP Fox Ventures LLC, bought Duthler Ford and Duthler Honda — two longstanding, highly respected and successful dealerships. Joe Duthler, an auto-sales fixture in West Michigan for 58 years, decided to retire and sell his prize possessions to DP Fox President and CEO Dan DeVos.
DeVos told the Business Journal that he had multiple reasons for his interest in Duthler’s dealerships. One was the cars. He said Ford was synonymous with the American automobile, a great name with a good product line, especially in trucks. And he felt Honda was an overall strong seller. Plus, he already had the Acura franchise, which is produced by Honda, and he is familiar with the company and its lines of products.
Then there was the location of the dealerships. Fox Ford is at 3560 28th St. SE and Fox Honda is at 3050 Broadmoor Ave. SE.
“They’re located right next door to us and across the street from us. So proximity played into it,” said DeVos.
Another reason was that Duthler’s business philosophy fit that of DeVos.
“We believe we operate businesses in the same way, the same type of manner, and have the same feelings about how to do things,” he said. “Another part that was consistent with the philosophy was there were a lot of good people in place there with a lot of experience in all levels of the organization.”
Having Ford aboard is a strategic addition to the Fox Motors lineup. The world’s second-best-selling automaker becomes the second dealership the firm has with U.S.-based vehicles. Alpine Pontiac Buick, at 5977 Alpine Ave. NW, was the sole showroom with American brands in Fox’s array of imports that includes Audi, Nissan, Mazda and Hyundai.
But Ford, like General Motors, has lost market share over the past few years, mostly to Asian automakers Toyota, Honda, Nissan and Hyundai — with the last three now under the Fox Motors banner. Still, DeVos has high hopes for Ford. He firmly believes the company will stage a comeback over the next few years.
“If somebody would say that Ford was down — whether it is or not, I guess you can always debate that to some degree. But they will definitely get better than they are now. They’ve been there before, for sure, and I think they’ll get back there again,” he said.
DeVos, who owns DP Fox with his wife, Pamella, has kept the company diversified. Real estate, sports marketing, fashion, insurance and transportation play a part in the firm’s daily business. But for DeVos, transportation — in this case automobile sales — has the lead role.
“I like the car business. It’s good for me. I take a long-term approach to it. If you were to ask me today if the car business is all it can be here, I’d say no, it’s not. You look at the West Michigan economy and things are generally slow here for the car business, relative to some other parts of the country,” he said.
“But I take a long-term approach. If you look at the American car companies, people can say that they are going to die. But I believe they will come back. Businesses go through a cycle, the car business especially. They have their ups and their downs. While some may be down right now, I expect them to come back.”
One car business that is down is Isuzu. It’s no longer part of the Fox lineup, but the firm still services the line.
“We sell 13 lines now,” said DeVos.
Fox Motors opened a new 35,000-square-foot, multi-million dealership last November called Delta Imports at 6025 28th St. SE, home for its Audi, Porsche and Subaru lines. Early this month, after two months of negotiations with Duthler, the company added Ford and Honda. Both automakers are expected to approve the transaction by fall. Fox got into the business when it purchased Keenan Saab in November 1999.
Thirteen lines at nine locations in less than six years is a far cry from a single South Division Avenue Saab lot.
How did it happen? DeVos gave the credit to those around him.
“It’s all about having good people,” he said. “We’ve been able to learn the business with the help of a lot of good people, people who joined us and helped us move ahead.”
The Fox Lineup
Nine new car dealerships and a used car center are under the Fox Motor Group banner.
|Alpine Pontiac Buick||5977 Alpine Ave. NW|
|Delta Imports||6025 28th St. SE|
|East Imports||4430 28th St. SE|
|East Nissan||4430 28th St. SE|
|Fox Ford||3560 28th St. SE|
|Fox Honda||3050 Broadmoor Ave. SE|
|Fox Hyundai||3060 Broadmoor Ave. SE|
|Fox Mitsubishi||3562 29th St. SE|
|Fox Saab||3538 29th St. SE|
|Fox Used Car Center||3506 29th St. SE|
Note: Delta Imports features the Audi, Porsche and Subaru lines. East Imports features Acura and Mazda