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Wheel dealers.

Gwatney Operates Largest Auto Empire

Harold Gwatney Chevrolet at Jacksonville is the flagship of the largest Arkansas-based automobile empire.

In addition to its Jacksonville operation, Gwatney has three dealerships at Memphis, Tenn.

Total sales for the Gwatney family of dealerships was about $125 million in 1990.

Gwatney's Jacksonville dealership had sales of almost $50 million last year. The dealership has about 110 employees.

The second-largest automobile empire in the state is McLarty Management Co., which operates six dealerships at Little Rock, North Little Rock, Hope and Texarkana, Texas.

McLarty sold 5,416 automobiles and grossed more than $81 million in 1990.

"Both of those figures should increase substantially in 1991," says Jack Caldwell, McLarty's senior vice president.

The increases are expected because of McLarty's purchase earlier this year of the bankrupt One Moore Ford at North Little Rock. McLarty now operates the dealership as North Point Ford.

In northwest Arkansas, the largest multiple dealership is Nelms Motors of Fayetteville.


Nelms operates three dealerships at Fayetteville that grossed $28.4 million in 1990. The dealerships have 112 employees.

Nelms recently expanded its used-car business by moving to a newer, larger site and hiring additional employees.

Disappearing Dealerships

The number of new car dealerships in Arkansas is dwindling, according to J. H. Burnside, director of the Arkansas Motor Vehicle Commission.

The problem is most severe, he says, in small towns, especially in east Arkansas.

Dealerships in northwest Arkansas and Little Rock are not as damaged financially because economies in those areas are healthier, according to Burnside.

"I'm concerned," Burnside says. "It's serious. I think we are going to see a steady decline in the number of dealerships.

"I see a trend toward full-line dealerships because when one can't make it, another takes over."
New Car Dealers in Arkansas
1986 395
1987 390
1988 408
1989 401
1990 401
1991 (*)380
*through June 3
Source: Arkansas Motor Vehicle Commission
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No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1991 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:automobile dealers in Arkansas
Author:Gibson, Carolyn
Publication:Arkansas Business
Date:Oct 7, 1991
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Next Article:Top office managers in Central Arkansas.

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