Willey Automotive Group

Duff Willey will never forget the day he signed the dealer agreement in 1980 to buy Willey Ford from his father, Don Willey. Duff’s grandfather, Marion Willey, started the dealership in 1949.  

“I was about 25, and the guy from Ford Motor Company said, ‘You’re third-generation. You’re the generation that usually fails,’” Willey says. “It was the best thing that ever happened to me. I was determined to prove him wrong.”

Prove them wrong he has. This year, the Willey Automotive Group is celebrating its 60th anniversary in the Salt Lake City, Utah, market, representing Ford, Lincoln, Honda, Chevrolet, Buick, Dodge, Chrysler and Jeep. Annually, the 175 employees at the five stores sell about 2,500 new and “a couple thousand” used vehicles, he says.

Plus, Duff Willey’s son, Walker, is general manager at Willey Honda, marking the fourth generation of family ownership.  

Duff Willey started selling cars in 1977 when he was a college student in southern California. That was when he fell in love with the car business. He returned home to Utah in 1979 to work with his father and his childhood friend, Dave Nelson, who is now his partner.  

The keys to the group’s success go back to his grandfather and father and the way they chose to run the dealership, Willey says. “We are very fair. We do the right things for the right reasons. As a result, we generate a great deal of repeat and referral business.”

The group also has very little turnover, so customers get to know the sales and service staff.  The long employee tenure comes from the core values that Marion Willey incorporated into the business in 1949. “We’re tremendously loyal to our people,” Duff Willey says. “We’re very honest with people. We reward employees very well when the job gets done the way we expect it to get done. It’s a good place to work.”

Willey Automotive Group was one of the first one-price dealerships in the country; all prices are posted every day. “Customers can come in and get the prices right up front,” he says. “The process is driven around a pleasant buying experience.” 

Willey says that today’s customer is looking for an open, transparent buying experience, fairness and products that give them great value. That’s what led the company to JM&A Group when it was looking for a new F&I provider. He was extremely impressed with JM&A’s professionalism, the product presentation, its reporting and its financial stability.

“We expect to treat our customers fairly and we never want to sell them anything that doesn’t have a benefit,” he says. “We’ve had several warranty companies in the past that went out of business; we stood by those contracts and paid the claims out of our own pockets. With JM&A, we don’t have to worry about that.”

He’s been very satisfied with JM&A’s commitment to ongoing, in-store training, particularly as it relates to compliance. “We want to make sure what we’re doing is fair to the customer and protects the consumer,” he says. “We want to be compliant. With JM&A, we have no fear of that at all.” 
Most of all, he’s been happy with the sales results that have come from switching to JM&A. 

“We’re now achieving numbers we never thought were possible, particularly in our import stores,” he says. “We’ve doubled our income. We’re really happy with the results.“ 
Jan 1, 2013