Gus Johnson Ford has been sold to a North Dakota dealership group in a deal that both companies said would not affect employees or customers.
The Corwin Automotive Group, based in Fargo, North Dakota, took control of locally owned Gus Johnson Ford on Monday.
According to its website, Corwin also operates dealerships in the Tri-Cities, Nebraska, Nevada, Idaho, Montana and Missouri. It now owns the dealership at 8300 E. Sprague Ave., in Spokane Valley.
Mario Wierzchowski, the operating partner for what is now Corwin Ford Spokane, said the parent company is a family-owned business.
Wierzchowski, 46, also works as the operating partner in the Corwin dealership in Tri-Cities and will be splitting time between there and Spokane.
“We’ve been working with Gus for the last year-and-a-half with this acquisition,” he said. “Gus was looking to sell to somebody who would take care of his employees and his customers in a way he would.”
Johnson was reached Monday through a representative. That person said Johnson wanted Wierzchowski to speak on his behalf regarding the sale of the business.
As part of the sale, all of Gus Johnson Ford’s 72 employees were given termination letters effective Sunday night. They were all rehired Monday morning by Corwin at the same pay, tenure and benefits, Wierzchowski said.
“They are all keeping their jobs and we hope to have 100 employees by the end of the year,” he said. “Customers shouldn’t see many changes from the perspective of car service.
“From the sales side, we are known to be aggressive on price and we are volume driven. We pride ourselves in being easy to do business with and being transparent.”
The sale negotiations began after Johnson indicated a willingness to retire, Wierzchowski said.
“We reached out to him … just to see what was his succession plan, what he was looking for and what were his goals,” he said. “He felt we would be a good match because we are family owned and we have been in business for more than 100 years.
“So, we started talking about making an offer and potentially buying the store.”
Johnson was known to schedule trips to take his employees to fish in Alaska. A Washington State University graduate, Johnson originally worked in the finance department of Ford Motor Co. before purchasing a dealership in Grangeville, Idaho, according to the company website.
He sold that dealership in 1985 before purchasing McCollum Ford in 1992.
“I think this market presents a great opportunity for any new business,” Wierzchowski said. “We are trying to build on what Gus has done. The way he made sure that his employees were taken care of during the transition speaks to his integrity as a person.”
The new company will also reach out to local charities to make philanthropic contributions where needed, he said.
“We want to carry on (Johnson’s) legacy,” Wierzchowski said. “We want to work alongside Wendle (Ford of Spokane) and Mike White (Ford of Coeur d’Alene) to increase the Ford imprint on this community.”
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