Smith’s Auto Sales Named 2019 Pennsylvania IADA State Quality Dealer of the Year
RIMERSBURG, Pa. – The MidAtlantic IADA has named Larry Smith, Owner of two Smith’s Auto Sales stores in Rimersburg and Clarion, Pennsylvania, the 2019 Pennsylvania IADA State Quality Dealer of the Year.
Smith, 76, has operated the family owned business since 1975. His dealerships employ 13 people, including several family members. They move 40-50 units a month, and have sold as many as 100 units during tax season.
The dealership sells mostly late model, low-mileage vehicles predominantly at the original Rimersburg location. Rimersburg is a farming community about 75 miles from Pittsburgh and Youngstown, Ohio, and about 40 miles from Punxsutawney. The dealership is a quarter of a mile or so off of Pennsylvania Highway 68 and is adjacent to a large corn field.
“Smith and his team exemplify the kind of dealer we seek to nominate as Quality Dealer of the Year,” said Michael Brill, President of the MidAtlantic IADA. “Smith has been a member of the Pennsylvania IADA since he opened, and his work ethic, integrity, and success in our industry is unsurpassed.”
Reg Evans, Executive Director of the MidAtlantic IADA, said Smith will be presented with his award during the annual MARIADA 2019 Conference in the fall.
Larry will have the opportunity to earn the title of NIADA National Quality Dealer of the Year at the 2019 NIADA-NABD Convention and Expo which will be held June 17-20 in Las Vegas.
Smith said he was surprised and humbled upon learning he had been given the award this year.
“I’m not sure why they chose us,” Smith said, “but it certainly is an unexpected honor. We utilize the services of the Pennsylvania IADA almost daily for title work and whenever we have questions. There are always questions, and the people there are so helpful.”
Smith got his start in the automotive business shortly after he graduated from Union High School in Rimersburg in 1961 when he began working in father’s body work business. He did bump and paint work, and was particularly skilled in custom painting.
“We were pretty good at it,” he said. “We painted classic vehicles, custom vans, and Corvettes,” he said. “It was when the metal flake and pearlescent paints were popular.”
He was in his early 20s when he decided he would try his hand selling cars. He used the same building they used for the bump and paint business and started putting a few cars for up sale in the parking lot.
“We used the proceeds from the sales to buy more vehicles, and we just kept going,” Smith said. “We sold five cars, then moved to 10, and now we hit a 100 a month from time to time.”
Smith was raised on a nearby dairy farm. From the time he could walk, he was working on the farm. He helped to feed and milk the cows, and did barn work.
“It was morning to night,” he said. “I think that is what got me in the mode of working every day. I still work six days a week, and I don’t plan on stopping.”
He said he may retire one day, but he’s not going to think about that for about 15 years.
“Really, I love this business, and I enjoy helping people,” he said.
Smith has four sons and two, Dustin and Scott, both work at the dealership. Dustin (his youngest son) works in business development and wears many hats. “Dustin has turned the entire business into something Great!” “He deserves all the credit!” Smith says. He has two other sons, Jason and Weston, and two step-daughters. His wife, Cheryl, also works at the dealership as a sales representative and as office manager.
Larry Smith said he has never specialized in a specific brand or vehicle type, but has always gone with late-model, low-mileage vehicles. He started with Credit Acceptance Corp. as a financing source many years ago, and still has that source along with numerous others in his financing portfolio.
“Since I’ve been in business for 44 years, I’m often asked about how we have survived and been successful,” he said. “The answer is always the same. It takes a lot of hard work, and being there for your customers. If a customer wants to pick up a car at 10 p.m., you go.”
It may be a bit easier for Smith to get to the dealership than some, because he built a home about 100 yards from his dealership 30 years ago.
“We’re off the main road, so people really have to know about us to find us,” he said. “But the Internet has changed that. It was much more of a struggle in this business before the Internet.”
Today, his web site, which is maintained by Dustin, gets attention from customers in states as far away as Florida, North Carolina, and farther away as well. Smith said the Internet has not only made it easier for him to sell his cars, but also has made it easier for him to buy cars for his inventory.
“We used to go to the auction on Tuesday through Friday,” he said. “Now we can buy cars online, and we’re doing it regularly. We go to ADESA Pittsburgh and ADESA Mercer, as well as Corry Auto Dealers Exchange, and Manheim Pittsburgh in Cranberry, Township. We also started to buy online from ACV Auctions, and that is working well for us. We may buy two or three units a day from ACV.”
“We’ve sold cars on Saturday morning that we bought on Friday,” he said. “Sometimes they don’t make it back to the dealership.”
Smith is an avid big game hunter, and hunts deer near his Rimersburg dealership.
“We feed the deer every night right next to the dealership,” he said. “They love it, and it sure is wonderful to see them come in at dusk. I was able to take two Boone and Crockett qualifying deer in the past two years.”
Over the years, Smith and fellow hunters would take trips out to Colorado to hunt whitetail deer, mule deer, elk and bear. They would go regularly, and a friend suggested he become an outfitter in Colorado.
“It took several tries to get an outfitters license,” he said, “but eventually we did, and leased a small ranch in northwest Colorado, and we run hunts out of there. I typically go about four times a year for a week or so.”
Smith said the biggest challenge facing his dealership is dealing with competitors, but that only has made him a better dealer.
“Because competitors are just a computer click away, you have to price your vehicles right, and you need good reviews,” he said. “We detail every car the way we would want it, and we always put on new tires, new brakes and a new battery. We want every vehicle we sell to be as good as possible.”
Smith said during the coming year, he’ll use the award in his advertising and marketing, but also take the opportunity to tell fellow dealers about the importance of the MidAtlantic IADA and the NIADA.
“They are so helpful,” he said. “If you have a question or a problem, they have the answer, or they’ll get it for you quickly. “It’s a great organization, and I’m proud to be a member.”
(Article by Peter A. Salinas)
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