Photo by Jon Anderson.
The Burrell family celebrated Long-Lewis Ford’s 100th year in September. From left are chairman Vaughn Burrell, his son and president of the company Dwight Burrell, and grandson Joe Burrell, who just started working at the dealership.
The Long-Lewis Ford Lincoln dealership in Hoover truly is in it for the long run.
The dealership recently celebrated 100 years as an official Ford franchise.
Ford Motor Co. executives over the Atlanta region, which includes all of Georgia, 80 percent of Alabama and southeast Tennessee, were in Hoover in September to recognize the unusual accomplishment.
“This is a really big deal,” said Alan Brauer, the regional manager for parts and service. He has seen only one other dealership reach the 100-year mark, he said.
Tony Watkins, Ford’s regional manager for sales and operations, said Long-Lewis Ford is one of the better-performing dealerships in the region. Ford has been giving out President’s Awards for outstanding customer satisfaction in sales and service for 30 years, and Long-Lewis has won the award 29 times, Watkins said.
This past year, less than 10 percent of Ford dealerships — about 300 nationally — received the President’s Award, he said.
“To win it once is hard, but to win it 29 times — they are a model dealer,” Watkins said.
And it is becoming more unusual to see family-owned dealerships such as Long-Lewis, he said. More and more are selling their dealerships to corporate entities, he said.
The Long-Lewis car dealership actually began in 1911 when William Long of the Long-Lewis Hardware store in Bessemer added Ford automobiles to his line of Studebaker buggies and wagons, according to the company history on its website.
In 1915, Ford began granting franchises, and Long-Lewis Hardware became one of the first to get one.
Vaughn Burrell, who was hired to manage the dealership in 1961, said he bought out the Long family businesses in 1986 after three generations of Longs had run the companies. Burrell’s son, Dwight Burrell, joined the company in 1985 and took over management of the dealership as president in 1996, though the father remains as chairman of the company.
In January 1999, Long-Lewis moved the dealership to a new 84,000-square-foot facility on John Hawkins Parkway in Hoover.
“We knew this would be a great market for new Fords. It just made sense to be where the growth was,” Dwight Burrell said. “It has been a very good location. We’ve had great success here and enjoy being in this community.”
Ever since moving to Hoover, Long-Lewis Ford Lincoln is consistently ranked first or second in the state in the sale of new Fords, Dwight Burrell said.
The Burrells take pride in their customer satisfaction scores. Vaughn Burrell said he has seen a lot of changes in the automotive business over the years.
He remembers when people could buy a pretty good car for $200 to $400 in 1954. People once had to pay $16 to $21 extra for turn signals, $16 more for back-up lights, $45 for a radio and $50 for a heater, he said. Now, all of those features come standard on the vehicles.
Financing plans for vehicles formerly only lasted for 18 months, but now vehicles can be financed up to 72 months, he said. Warranties once were only good for 90 days or 4,500 miles, and now warranties can last for five years or 60,000 miles, he said.
But through it all, the Burrells kept selling vehicles. One of Vaughn Burrell’s grandsons, Joe, just started working at the dealership in September after graduating from the University of Alabama. He will be going to dealer school and working in all the departments, Vaughn Burrell said.
“Maybe 10 or 12 years down the road, he’ll take over my son’s job,” Vaughn Burrell said. “That’s the plan.”
Another grandson, Eric Benson, is general manager of the heavy truck division in Bessemer, he said.
Dwight Burrell, the current president for Long-Lewis, said his family is very proud to be associated with a company that has been around for so long.
“We must be doing something right,” he said. “We’re still here.”