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RACING TO STAY AHEAD IN NEW ERA GALPIN STARTS SELLING HONDAS.

Byline: BRENT HOPKINS Staff Writer

NORTH HILLS -- The world's No. 1 Ford dealership is joining its longtime adversary, Honda.

After fighting off Honda's strong-selling cars for years, Galpin Motors in North Hills has opened a Honda dealership in Mission Hills.

Galpin's owner, Bert Boeckmann, has ventured into other brands in the past, selling Saturns, Suzukis and Hyundais. His dealership sells an array of Ford sister brands, including the Japanese Mazda and the upscale British makes Land Rover, Jaguar and Aston Martin, but this represents its first foray into a major Japanese mark.

``I'd love to say Hondas will be eclipsing the Ford store,'' said Brad Boeckmann, the Galpin Motors vice president overseeing the Honda dealership and Bert Boeckmann's son. ``We'd love to try, but in the short term, I don't see that happening.''

The dealership, at Laurel Canyon Boulevard and Chatsworth Street, occupies the shuttered Mission Hills Ford site. After a ``soft'' opening Monday, the dealership will celebrate its grand opening later this summer.

In previous years, a Ford dealer picking up a rival franchise, particularly an import, would have been a tremendous defection. And with Ford's ongoing attempts to recapture market share lost to Honda, Nissan and Toyota, Galpin's allegiance with a rival manufacturer comes at a delicate time. But as dealers have broadened themselves across multiple brands, it's become more and more common.

``Loyalty's fine until you go broke,'' said Fritz Hitchcock, chairman of Hitchcock Automotive Resources, which owns Ford, BMW and Toyota franchises throughout the Los Angeles area. ``Bert's a great dealer, but he can't be doing the same business for Ford that he was four years ago. I know I'm not -- there's nothing traitorous about it, it's just good business.''

In addition to competing with Boeckmann, Hitchcock also sits with him on the board of the California Motor Car Dealers Association.

For anti-trust reasons, Ford has little power to block what its franchisees do with other stores. And since Galpin has been Ford's top-volume seller for the past 16 years, the manufacturer is loathe to tell the elder Boeckmann what to do.

``He's just a very influential person in the business community, who's been a very prosperous dealership,'' said Octavio Navarro, Ford's assistant regional manager for public affairs. ``He's a very smart businessman. He always looks for opportunities, and this seems like a perfect one for him.''

brent.hopkins(at)dailynews.com

818-713-3738

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Photo:

(color) The management team at Galpin Honda features Brad Boeckmann, dealer principal, center, and clockwise from left: Jay Ross, parts manager; Jim Fabos, service manager; George Magana, sales manager; Ed Hartoonian, general manager, and Noah Bruce, sales manager.

John McCoy/Staff Photographer
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Title Annotation:Business
Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Geographic Code:9JAPA
Date:Jul 18, 2006
Words:443
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