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Wayne Knudtsen retires from family business after 50 years

Wayne Knudtsen, patriarch of the Knudtsen Chevrolet family, is retiring. 
 (Jesse Tinsley / The Spokesman-Review)
Wayne Knudtsen, patriarch of the Knudtsen Chevrolet family, is retiring. (Jesse Tinsley / The Spokesman-Review)

Selling Chevrolet automobiles has been a Knudtsen family affair since 1939.

June 12 of that year Clifford Knudtsen opened Knudtsen Chevrolet at the corner of Fourth and Coeur d’Alene streets before moving north on Fourth in April 1966. Now, in their new location off Interstate 90 in Post Falls for the past two-and-a-half years, Wayne Knudtsen, 77, Clifford’s son, is passing the torch to his daughter, Eve Knudtsen.

Clifford Knudtsen purchased the dealership. He was employed by the Dunlop Tire Corp. in Manitoba before deciding to go to Glendale, Calif., where his father was. Clifford Knudtsen decided that three weeks in Los Angeles was enough. His brother, Charles Knudtsen, was a Chevrolet/Buick dealer in Kent, Wash.

Wayne Knudtsen said, “He called my dad and said, ‘Cliff, look, the tire business isn’t a whole bunch different from the automobile business, so why don’t you come up and work for me for a while and see whether you like it or not’.”

Clifford Knudtsen worked for his brother in Kent for three months before the Coeur d’Alene dealership came up for sale and he bought it.

Wayne Knudtsen took over the dealership in 1955, when his dad had a heart attack. He became the dealer – the person in an automobile dealership who is designated to do all the business with the manufacturer – in 1959.

The greatest change Wayne Kundtsen said he has seen in 50 years in the automotive industry is the improvement in the quality of the American vehicle.

“There is no vehicle built in the world that is finer quality than the vehicles built in the United States of America,” he said. However, he said, in his opinion regarding design, the Jaguar was the finest-looking vehicle.

Knudtsen Chevrolet, while big on truck sales, only moves six to eight Corvettes a year.

“They only manufacture 29,000 of them a year worldwide,” Wayne said. “This is not strong Corvette country.”

The total number of new and used vehicles sold at the dealership in a year averages about 1,800.

Currently a bright red SSR truck sits on the showroom floor. Wayne Knudtsen refers to the retro-inspired rig as a “niche” vehicle.

“They are only going to build 8,000 to 10,000 of them this year,” he said. With 400 horsepower, it’s basically a snazzy little truck

Muscle cars are still appealing to the masses. Knudtsen pointed out the current popularity of the new Mustang.

“Notice the closeness of the general appearance of the vehicle,” he said referring to side-by-side photos of the new Mustang and a ‘60s model. “They can’t build enough of these cars. They’re sold out months ahead of time.”

Chevrolet will come out with a new muscle car in 2007, and Knudtsen suspects it will be a Camaro, just like the good-old days.

As for retirement, Knudtsen just plans to have fun golfing, boating, reading and traveling with his wife of six years, Charlene. They plan to visit and fish with friends in Sitka, Alaska, next month, and visit Australia and New Zealand this winter.

He is not sad and is ready to retire. Eve Knudtsen has been the dealer since 1995, but the retirement party June 12 closed Wayne’s chapter at Knudtsen Chevrolet.

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