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Gwatney tops state sales.

Ray Automobile Dealerships Rate as Largest Outside Central Arkansas

Discovering the largest automobile dealerships in Arkansas can be almost as difficult as buying a new car for $5,000.

Because the dealerships are privately owned, owners don't have to reveal their revenues or number of vehicles sold.

Many owners chose not to be included in Arkansas Business' annual list of the largest dealerships because they did not want to reveal, for competitive reasons, the number of vehicles they sold in 1992.

One owner said he wouldn't mind disclosing his sales if more dealers did the same. Owners of three very large central Arkansas dealerships chose not to be on the list because they wanted to continue to present a small-store atmosphere to their customers.

Undoubtedly, however, the chain of dealerships owned by the Harold Gwatney family is the state's largest. The chain of five dealerships sold 12,714 vehicles last year, almost 3,000 more than any other group of dealerships in the state.

The Gwatneys operate Harold Gwatney Chevrolet Co. in Jacksonville; Gwatney I and Gwatney II, dealerships in Memphis, Tenn., that sell Chevrolet, Geo and Hyundai; Saturn of Memphis; and Northpoint Ford in Millington, Tenn.

The Jacksonville dealership led the group with 4,424 vehicles sold last year, about 1,200 more than the Gwatneys' Saturn dealership sold in 1992.

The Gwatneys also led last year's list with 8,802 vehicles sold in 1991.

"Gwatney continues to be one of the major players in the state, particularly because he does so much TV advertising," one auto insider says. "People just flock in. I've been hearing that Bale [Chevrolet in Little Rock] is doing the same thing."

One Bale Chevrolet employee indicates that the company is the largest Chevrolet dealership in the state, but Bale would not reveal specific numbers.

The chain of dealerships owned by a trust of Thomas F. "Mack" McLarty is the state's second largest. McLarty's dealerships sold almost 10,000 vehicles in 1992. McLarty, President Clinton's White House chief of staff, has his businesses in a trust while he is serving in Washington.

There is no breakout for each of McLarty's seven dealerships. But North Point Ford Inc. in North Little Rock sold 2,675 vehicles in 1991, according to Arkansas Business' 1992 list, the third highest total in that list.

Dealerships in which McLarty has majority ownership or near-majority ownership include North Point Ford, North Point Mazda, Premier Pontiac Nissan and Prestige Toyota, all in the Greater Little Rock area; Hope Auto Co.; and McLarty Ford and Four-States Chrysler Plymouth Dodge, both in Texarkana.

The largest chain of dealerships outside the Little Rock area is owned by Jim Ray.

Ray has Jim Ray Pontiac Cadillac Isuzu and Jim Ray Mitsubishi in Fayetteville, Mazda of Springdale and Mid-South Nissan in Tupelo, Miss. He also owns Avis Nissan in Fayetteville with Avis Bailey. Combined, those dealerships sold 6,840 vehicles in 1992.

Ray also has Northwest Honda in Bentonville, but that dealership was acquired this year.

The state's No. 2 dealership in 1991 sales, the Tri-Jones dealerships of Jones Nissan Isuzu Subaru, Jones Buick Pontiac and Jones Toyoto Volvo, did not provide information for our list this year. The Tri-Jones dealerships sold 4,923 vehicles in 1991.

Landers May Be Largest

This year's list again is ranked by number of vehicles sold. Arkansas Business also asked dealers to include new vehicles sold, used vehicles sold and fleet vehicles sold.

According to two sources, Landers jeep Eagle Chrysler Plymouth Dodge in Benton sells more vehicles than any other single dealership in Arkansas. That couldn't be verified, however, because the Landers dealerships, including Landers Oldsmobile GMC Trucks in Benton, chose not to participate in this year's list.

Also, "there is probably some good Honda business out there," one source says. "I have always heard that Russell Honda is the dominant Honda shop, but there is a lot of televison advertising coming out of that Bale Honda dealership."

Russell Honda is in Sherwood.

The Bale Chevrolet and Honda dealerships in Little Rock are two in which Winthrop Paul Rockefeller has ownership interests. Rockefeller also has ownership interests in Riverside Motors and Riverside Acura, both located in Little Rock.
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Article Details
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Title Annotation:automobile dealer Harold Gwatney Chevrolet Co.
Author:Smith, David (American novelist)
Publication:Arkansas Business
Date:Sep 20, 1993
Words:699
Previous Article:Expanding empire.
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