Two separate businesses proving to be a strong fit
Big John’s Ford dealership in Minden, Neb., isn’t your average auto dealer. The dealership sells the typical Ford vehicles, but also Arctic Cat ATVs. The agricultural region of Kearney-Grand Island-Hastings has many farmers who transport four-wheelers and side-by-sides in their trucks to irrigate their fields, so it’s a natural fit.
Owner Don Ellis created the unique business model “after driving 90 miles to visit the closest Arctic Cat dealer,” he told Powersports Business. Other ATV brands are sold in the area, but having done research on Arctic Cat’s Wildcat, Ellis found them to be superior machines. He decided to stick with just the Arctic Cat line and in August 2013 added the OEM’s ATVs and UTVs to his Ford dealership.
To be an existing auto dealer and take on a powersports line turned out to be a smooth transition.
“We already had a great F&I manager in place, so it was easy to add the Arctic Cat line from that perspective,” Ellis said. They also have master-certified service technicians on staff. That is an important part to the business, he said.
“Anybody can sell anything, but it’s how the customer is taken care of after the sale that defines on whether you are successful or not,” he said. He’s confident both the Ford and the Arctic Cat customers will be satisfied.
From an operations standpoint, the Ford and Arctic Cat lines are treated as two separate businesses with different dealer management systems. While it remains to be seen if the Arctic Cat sales have any effect on the Ford sales and vice versa, there have been a few times when customers came in seeking a vehicle or ATV and ended up buying both. Of the Cats being sold, Ellis estimates 80 percent are UTVs and 20 percent ATVs.
It’s early in the game and while ATV sales have been decent, it helps to have the Ford dealership in the picture. A unique advantage of the combo dealership is that it allows Big John’s to be far more competitive on its Arctic Cat pricing, since it’s not the only unit they are depending upon for profits.
Being an auto dealer with an ATV line has given Big John’s some other unique opportunities for exposure to potential customers. One in particular is the Nebraska Cattleman’s Classic, which draws in ranchers and farmers from around the country. In addition to a large cattle auction, there is also a commercial trade show held during the week of the show. Big John’s is the only ATV dealer there, so the dealership has generated plenty of leads for both the ATVs and autos from that show.
While this combination business may not work everywhere, Ellis has found a unique niche. He’s new to the ATV dealership game, but having owned a John Deere dealership for 10 years prior to buying Big John’s, he’s confident in what his dealership is providing to its customers.
He also grew up in a farming family, and is familiar with what folks in rural communities prefer to drive. What better idea than to give them a chance to shop for both at one dealership, especially his own?