WILMINGTON — The Adkins Family has acquired the Chrysler, Dodge, Jeep and Ram new car franchise, and going forward the family’s Wilmington Auto Center will become a new car store while still selling pre-owned vehicles.
The franchise transfer from Bill Marine Ford Inc. went into effect Nov. 1, with Bill Marine Ford moving forward with its existing Ford and Lincoln new car franchise.
Wilmington Auto Center General Manager and Vice President John Adkins said, “We’re real excited to help better serve the community and grow.”
He added he hopes the move will work out well for both long-standing local car dealerships — Marine opening his doors in 1960, and John’s father Dale Adkins starting a Wilmington dealership in 1976 at the corner of Main and Nelson.
Marine said, “We’ve made a change, and we’d like to see Chrysler, Jeep and Dodge have a chance to stand on its own, and we want to stay with Ford and Lincoln, and stay in this location with some enhancements and move forward. And that’s our plan.”
Bill Marine’s dealership held the Chrysler new car franchise for 35 years, since 1981.
Presently, there are 17 employees with Wilmington Auto Center, and it is looking to hire four more people, John Adkins said this week.
He said he has wanted to be in the new car business since graduating from a four-year automotive school in Michigan. He worked in new car stores for about four years after graduating from Northwood University, and then moved back to Wilmington in 2007.
By then, the dealership had moved from its first site on Main Street to Wayne Road in 1991. In 2008, the family built an attractive facility along heavily traveled Rombach Avenue.
A month’s work of groundwork for the new store had been performed when DHL announced in late May 2008 it was leaving the air park, an action that resulted in the loss of more than 8,100 air park-based jobs.
“I signed the papers the day before DHL announced that they were closing. There were no rumors [about a possible closing], nothing out there floating around,” Dale Adkins recalled.
Eight years later, Wilmington Auto Center remains in operation. Dale calls it “a God thing.”
And after 40 years of selling pre-owned vehicles, now they will also sell new vehicles of the Chrysler, Dodge, Jeep and Ram lines.
Marine said he and his team wish the Adkins Family well in the transition. He also said they want to thank their previous Chrysler customers “for all these years.”
The move, he added, gives Bill Marine Ford more opportunity to focus on its core business, which is Ford and Ford trucks and Lincoln, and to carry more inventory in its key lines.
“We’re keeping the same team. We just want to grow the Ford and Lincoln part, and let the Adkins Family give Chrysler a shot in the arm,” Marine said.
Dale Adkins is CEO, David Atkins is president, and John Adkins is general manager and vice president of the Wilmington Auto Center.
Dale said they try to treat people the way they themselves want to be treated. “And that’s why we’ve been successful,” he said.
Reach Gary Huffenberger at 937-556-5768.