SEASON 3 | EPISODE 11: “We’re really in the people business.” || Rick Ford, CEO, RFJ Auto Partners

We have four pillars, and number one is our employees . . . I’m a firm believer that happy employees translate to happy customers.”  


Rick Ford’s company, RFJ Auto, operates 40 dealerships across the American West and Midwest.   

One of them is the largest CDJR dealership in the world, Dave Smith Motors, which sells 10-12k new vehicles, plus about 5000 used, per year. The surprising part?   

This dealership is in Kellogg, Idaho — a town of 2,390 people. Their success (selling cars in 40 states in a typical month) comes from digital retailing. As you can imagine, their digital sales model brought them enormous success at the start of the pandemic.   

But Rick Ford started from humble beginnings. Raised around cars, he was buying, repairing, and selling cars at the age of 14. He had a job servicing and detailing cars while in high school, where he was thrown into his first formal car sale at age 16 because the store’s sales person was out sick.   

On this episode, Rick tells the story of his career, starting at the bottom then moving up the ranks and becoming the leader of RFJ Auto Partners. Throughout his career, he’s always led with a philosophy of taking care of business by taking care of people.

Interview Highlights:

  • Lessons Rick has learned over his 40 years in the industry, as he notes that success “is a marathon, not a sprint”
  • Lessons RFJ Auto has taken from running the country’s most successful dealership in online retail, and how they’ve applied them at all their dealerships
  • The story on RFJ’s pending merger with Sonic Automotive, which will make them, together, the 5th largest auto group in the country

Derek D is an actor, comedian, and host with 15 years of experience in the entertainment industry. Before becoming a host on the DNT podcast, Derek was well known in the automotive industry for hosting the award-winning car news show Fast Lane Daily.

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