In 2002, Rick and Rita Case opened the world’s largest Honda dealership, in Davie, Fla., which soon sold a record 1,222 new Hondas in a single month.
“We wanted to be a bigger dealer,” Rita Case told Automotive News. “We wanted to pioneer new brands. We wanted to take brands as open points as opposed to buying dealerships.”
In 1985, the couple sold their 14 motorcycle dealerships in Ohio and financed the construction of the Florida stores that would be the first in the country to sell Hyundai and Acura vehicles.
“Between 1986 and 1988, Hyundai was the fastest-growing new car introduced in America, but it was a risk because nobody had ever heard of a Korean car,” Rita Case said. “With Acura, the risk was it was the first luxury Japanese car sold in America.”
Within their first month of business selling Hyundai and Acura, the Cases became those brands’ largest dealers in the country by sales volume, according to Rita Case. The group set other sales records over the years and still vies for volume bragging rights for the brands it represents.
The couple used Rick’s innovative marketing ideas to attract customers and make sales. They borrowed from airlines’ frequent flier programs, giving customers Rick Case Rewards cards for discounts on parts and service, free car washes for life and discount gasoline at their dealerships. Those programs continue today.
In 2004, the couple remodeled their supersized Honda store in Davie so the county clerk of courts could establish offices there. They even built a chapel in the dealership for couples getting marriage licenses. The clerk’s office and chapel are gone now, but the six-story dealership still is a polling station for elections.
And the Cases lent ideas to their automaker partners.
When the Hyundai brand was struggling in the U.S. in the 1990s, Rick asked Hyundai to celebrate its 10th anniversary in 1996 with a 10-year, 100,000-mile powertrain warranty to get customers to consider the brand again.
“We thought, ‘Let’s do something really outrageous,’ since other brands had much shorter warranties,” Rita Case said. “Hyundai said, ‘No, we don’t know how much this is going to cost. We can’t do this.’ ”
So Rick and Rita joined with other South Florida Hyundai dealers, bought an insurance policy for the risk and advertised a 10-year, 100,000-mile powertrain warranty, according to Case. Sales for the South Florida dealerships boomed, and in 1998, Hyundai introduced a 10-year, 100,000-mile powertrain warranty nationwide. The automaker improved its quality to back the warranty, and sales shot up.