Dave Smith: Pioneered the Internet as a sales vehicle

“Having learned more about that business and the people and everything else, it’s even more amazing than when I bought it in 2015,” then-RFJ President Rick Ford told Automotive News this month.

The growth story began in the 1980s, when with interest rates climbing, Dave Smith found his dealerships stuffed with inventory just as the local silver mine was shutting down. His answer? Start running ads in newspapers in other towns, advertising transparent and fixed pricing in an era when that didn’t exist, and then selling new vehicles over the phone.

When the Internet arrived, “they just grabbed it and took off with it,” Ford explained, crediting Dave Smith’s son, Ken, with expanding his father’s legacy and turning the dealerships in tiny Kellogg into national sales leaders. Ken Smith worked with Ford to run the dealerships for several years, stepping down in 2019, Ford said.

During the early days of the pandemic, dealerships across the country that had put off or were gingerly stepping into online retailing suddenly found themselves chasing a legend.

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