Chosen By Automotive News as one of 50 VISIONARY DEALERS
In 1975, car dealers in the Cleveland-Akron market started opening their showrooms on Sunday. To stand out, dealer Ed Mullinax knew he would need to try an even more radical departure from traditional auto retailing.
So Mullinax instructed the managers at his Ford dealership in Amherst, Ohio, to think of the store as a restaurant with a fixed-price menu. In the process, he pioneered one-price, no-haggle selling.
“I told the managers, ‘You price the car to where we won’t sell it for a cent less or a cent more,’ ” Mullinax told Automotive News in 1996. On the Sunday the one-price policy took effect, he said, “We opened for five hours and sold 40 cars, not even trying.”
Since then, major retailers such as CarMax and vehicle brands such as Saturn have embraced one-price selling. The practice remains controversial: While proponents argue it removes a major source of tension and dissatisfaction for car and truck shoppers, critics contend it deprives savvy consumers of the ability to negotiate their best deal.
Brilliant moves: One-price selling; first new-vehicle dealer to sell stores to what became AutoNation
But one-price selling enabled Mullinax to become one of the nation’s largest Ford Motor Co. retailers, with five Ford and Lincoln-Mercury dealerships in Ohio and Florida.
The policy “helped us grow from one little country store years ago to five pretty good-sized stores,” Mullinax said in 1996.
By the late 1990s, public auto retailers were beginning to assemble their dealership networks. H. Wayne Huizenga, the chairman of Republic Industries Inc., operated a group of used-car stores called AutoNation USA but wanted new-vehicle dealerships as well. At the end of 1996, Republic announced its acquisition of the Mullinax dealerships. Republic issued $100 million in stock to finance the deal.
The purchase bestowed instant credibility on Republic, which became AutoNation Inc. in 1999. AutoNation, now the largest U.S. auto retailer, adopted Mullinax’s one-price selling philosophy.