All in the family
Tom Roush Lincoln Mazda celebrates 40th anniversary in business with third generation of Roush employees
Forty years ago, Tom Roush opened the first Mazda dealership in Indiana. Thirty five years ago he moved the business to its current location in Westfield along U.S. 31. Back then, Roush started with 13,000 sq. ft. and 23 employees (one which has been with him since the beginning and three others who have been employed for more than 30 years).
“There was hardly anything out here. We were out in the boondocks,” said Roush. “The growth has been tremendous, especially the growth in the last 10 years.”
Today there are three generations of the Roush family working at the dealership: Tom, owner and president; his son, Jeff, who serves as general manager and vice president; his daughter, Susan, who recently returned to Indiana and works as secretary and customer relations; and Jeff’s two sons, AJ and Tommy, a service advisor.
“It’s almost like a second home,” said AJ, who serves as a business manager. “I’ve been working here since I was 14 or 15. It’s the only job I’ve ever had – working in different positions.”
Tom joked that the best part of working with family is job security.
“It’s definitely nice to work with family,” said Susan, who like her sister, Kathy Rickman, previously worked for business while in high school.
“It’s great; it can’t get any better,” said Jeff. “It’s great to have all the family here. You can depend on them. We all run in such different circles that days go by we don’t see each other.”
Tom Roush has weathered several economic storms throughout the years – the oil crisis in 1973, recession in 1979-1980 and the automobile industry crisis a few years ago. Withstanding tough times is nothing new to Tom. When he first began in 1977, there were five other Lincoln Mercury dealers competing against them. None exist today.
“We’ve had some good times, we’ve had some tough times,” said Tom. “We never had to lay anyone off. We didn’t have to change management. We suffered through it.”
Forecasting the automobile industry is a tough job lately, but Tom said signs are positive that the crisis has ended and the market is stabilizing.
“Each year since 2008 has increased,” he said. “The last year and a half has come came real strong.”
With the upcoming releases of the 2013 Lincoln MKZ and the 2013 Mazda CX-5 and Mazda 6, Tom is looking forward to continued success.
“2013 should be the same as this year,” he said.
Nationwide, Jeff said 14.2 million new cars will be made. In 2008 and 2009, less and 10 million new vehicles were made each year.
“In the best years (mid-2000s) were 17 million,” Jeff said. “The used cars always stayed pretty strong.”
While the industry is bouncing back, consumers are still very conscious of the economy, which Jeff said is a little easier on perspective buyers.
“It’s getting better,” said AJ. “I started in sales in 2007. More people are coming out looking at cars. It’s encouraging for me because I never saw it when it was great.”
“The ability to get financing is better than a year ago. Two years ago it was tough to get a loan,” said Jeff. “Gas mileage is at the top of the list along with monthly payments,”
One of the current challenges facing the business is the upcoming construction on U.S. 31.
“We don’t know what affect it’ll have honestly,” Jeff said.
The business has been at the same location for the past 35 years, but
“We’re working with the city and officials to develop new and various ways to improve signage and access roads,” said Jeff. “We like it here and don’t want to leave.”
“Our customers are still going to come up here, it just might take an additional couple turns,” Susan said.
Jeff said the dealership sells more than 2,000 vehicles a year. Currently, the business has approximately 550 cars available (300 new vehicles and 250 used ones) and employees 65 people.
“We sell cars too damn cheap,” Jeff said.
One of the biggest changes in the automotive industry is internet shopping. AJ said a 1977 Mercury Cougar was recently purchased from the dealership via eBay and shipped to North Carolina.
“It’s pretty dramatic, the move towards that. It’s growing and keeps growing,” said Jeff. “It works for you and against you both.”
Increased technology inside the car like Bluetooth, media pairing and cars that park themselves is a welcomed addition to the new safety features in vehicles.
“It’s only getting better especially with Lincoln and Mazda,” Tommy said.
Jeff said one of the biggest changes is the level of professionalism needed to be in the industry.
“The caliber of person working for us is much higher,” he said. “You didn’t have to be too smart to do this when I first started.”
When the Roush family isn’t at the business, they can still be found together. The members said they enjoy playing and watching sports together and have a family skiing trip each year.
“Grandpa and I attend antique car shows and auctions and restore vehicles,” Tommy said.
For the third generation of Roush boys joked they’ve done it all on the lot – painting road strip and cleaning cars – but the first job Tommy can remember is spraying weed killer on the property.
“Learn a business you love but from the ground up,” Tommy said.
The two also said they are inspired by the examples set by their older family members.
“Tommy and I look at grandpa and dad and see their work ethic and how they’ve been in the business and been successful. Grandpa’s at work almost every day,” AJ said.
“The best example is to follow what they do,” added Tommy. “Learn firsthand from family members how to run the business. I want to grow this business, work hard here in Westfield and sell lots of cars and trucks.”
What: Tom Roush Lincoln Mazda
Where: 525 David Brown Dr. off U.S. 31 and 169th Street, Westfield
Phone: 896-5561, (800) 891-3056
Winter Hours: Sales: 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday, Wednesday and Thursday and 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday, Friday and Saturday. Service/Parts: 7:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday to Friday and 7:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Saturday
The dealership also owns Tom Roush Budget Center at 132 W. Main St. in downtown Westfield. That location specializes in vehicles costing $10,000 and less. It is open 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday to Saturday and is open until 7 p.m. on Monday, Wednesday and Thursday. They can be contacted at 804-9384.
Tom Roush started in the automobile business in 1953 at Hedges Pontiac in Indianapolis. Hedges sponsored Roush at General Motors Institute in Flint, Mich. in the pursuit of an automotive marketing degree. In 1955, Roush went into sales with Harry A. Sharp Ford and worked his way up through different management positions and eventually bought into the store with his partner, Bill Shore, in 1967.
In 1972, Roush acquired what was the first Mazda franchise in Indiana and moved it into a vacant furniture store on old Meridian Street in Indianapolis. Roush operated that store and shared managerial responsibilities with Shore at the Ford store until 1977. In May 1977, Roush bought out Westfield Lincoln/Mercury, sold his interests in Sharp Ford, terminated the lease on the Mazda store and moved to the current location in Westfield.