Mahwah Ford Celebrates 50 Years In Business
Manager says the secret to the dealership's longevity lies within township residents
For Dennis Oberle, amongst the many changes his family has seen in the past 50 years, there has been one important constant. “Our family will be working here til we drop,” he said of Mahwah Ford, which his father started in Mahwah in 1962. “This has always been a family business, and we hope to keep it that way. Family is really important to us.”
When Herb Oberle first opened the dealership, it was slightly down the street from its current Franklin Turnpike location. “A good deal of our business,” came from the Ford plant, Oberle said. “The plant was one of the main reasons that we opened in Mahwah. Being the local dealer in a town where people were making the cars, and wanting to buy them, was a great thing for us.”
Ho-Ho-Kus native Herb Oberle started in the industry in the in the 1950’s, working at a service shop as a parts manager. “My dad thought making the move to a dealership would be bigger and better,” his son Dennis, who now operates the dealership along with other members of the family, said.
From somewhat humble beginnings, the dealership now has over 400 cars on the lot at all times. It sells about 150 new and used cars each month. Two years ago, Mahwah Ford experienced a 58 percent increase in sales, and last year sales bumped up another 12 percent. As other Ford dealerships across the area, and across the country, have closed over the past five years, Mahwah Ford has actually managed to rebound from tough economic times, and even take over inventory and customer bases from nearby dealerships that have gone out of business.
According to General Manager Bruce Wellen, a strong base of local customers has been the main ingredient in the dealership’s recipe for success. “We are not a highway store, so even though we are a big location, we depend on having a local clientele,” he said. “Our repeat business is very strong. People come here for car after car, and that has really always been our key.”
According to Oberle, it hasn’t always been smooth sailing. When the Ford plant closed in 1982, “we took a hit that we needed to find ways to recover from.” The economic downturn in 2008 also affected the business.
Wellen, who has worked at Mahwah Ford since 1982, said always updating the business to focus on customer needs and tendencies has helped keep the dealership afloat. In 1997, it added Kia to its showroom, a move that Wellen said has paid off as customers are looking for “less expensive, but still reliable cars.” In recent years, the company has focused on Internet sales, used cars and trade-ins. “We are seeing a lot of luxury car trade-ins, and that is just a sign of the times,” he said.
The GM also credits the Oberle family with “running the business the right way. The Oberle’s style is not hands-off at all. Dennis is here everyday, and there are a lot of family members involved in the business.”
Dennis said his dad would not have had it any other way. “We know we are a big part of the community, and our family is proud of that,” Oberle said. “So, the fact that we are still here and still doing fine is a testament not only to our family, but to our customers.”
He talked of no immediate plans of expansion or changing. Right now, the dealership plans to celebrate its 50th anniversary with a plaque presentation from the Ford Motor Company this month, and by offering customers deals like free oil changes and half price services with purchases.
“We actually just shot a commercial with some of the grandkids in the family,” Oberle said. “My hope is that 50 years from now, they will be running this place. I think that would be my biggest goal for the future.”