March 2011, Auto Dealer Today - WebXclusive
Tiffany Ford's Yearlong Celebration
The oldest Ford dealership in California, Tiffany Ford, celebrated its 100-year anniversary in 2010. On April 22, 1910, Dealer Bob Tiffany’s great-grandfather, E.W. Tiffany, set out to purchase a Ford Model T and went home a Ford dealer. “Things worked differently in those days, so the day he bought the Model T in April 1910 was the same day he became a dealer,” said Tiffany.
In 1987, Bob joined the dealership team, quickly rose in the ranks to general manager and has been the dealer for 10 years. As the fourth generation from the Tiffany family to run the dealership, he’s upholding quite the legacy. In addition to being the oldest in California, Tiffany Ford is the sixth-oldest Ford dealership in the country.
As the dealership’s centennial neared, obviously a celebration was in order, and with help from friends, local car clubs and employees, the dealership orchestrated a yearlong celebration to commemorate its 100-year anniversary. Rich Hershey and Jim West – two of Bob’s friends who don’t work for the dealership but are antique car enthusiasts – played in integral part in the successful celebrations. “They started encouraging me to start planning probably three or four years ago,” he said. At the time, he told them, “I want to get there first.” As it turned out, Tiffany Ford had to persevere through a few of the toughest years the industry has seen to make it to 100.
Dealer Bob Tiffany (left) stands with Rich Hershey (center) and Jim West, the two gentlemen who helped coordinate the vintage Fords for the showroom each month.
Tiffany said, “Obviously, other generations before me had similar situations. … My great-grandfather, grandfather and great-uncle … had to endure the Great Depression and of course World War II. My dad had tough times with incredible high-inflation years.” He added, “Hitting 100 years in this kind of environment really makes you appreciate how difficult it is to get through 100 years of ups and downs.”
Sometime around October 2009, he finally sat down with Hershey, West, a representative from the dealership’s ad agency and a Ford public relations representative to plan the 100-year anniversary celebration. The idea that made the most sense was to “have a different vintage Ford month every month for 12 months.” Tiffany said that allowed them to “celebrate 100 years in grand style.”
Prior to the meeting, Hershey and West had started doing some of the “legwork with some of the auto clubs” in the area, which is how the showroom got filled with a different set of vintage Fords each month. “[Hershey and West’s] love of vintage cars and trucks, particularly vintage Ford cars and trucks, caused them to come in and volunteer their assistance right from the get-go,” said Tiffany. He said they’ve both put in a tremendous amount of time distributing information to area car clubs and helping locate and coordinate the different groups of vintage Fords that sat on the showroom floor each month, which were on loan from private owners.
“We were not renting them or paying anyone anything,” said Tiffany. All the vintage car owners that loaned their cars to his dealership for a month at a time were “very friendly and willing to show off their cars.” He added, “We’ve been able to get some really beautiful vehicles in our showroom.” In January 2010, Model T Month, six mint-condition Model Ts (one from each year from 1910 to 1915) graced the showroom floor.
In addition to vintage Fords in the showroom, most months the dealership hosted events to coincide with the theme of the month. Tiffany said many of the car clubs have an outing once a month “where all of them will go on a road trip to somewhere—a tour, as they call it.” They usually stop somewhere for lunch and have a seminar, so from January to June, the dealership was the stopping point for lunches and seminars.
On January 16, 2010, the dealership hosted the seminar, “100 MPH in a Model T,” during which a local expert on Model Ts came into the dealership and explained how to drive a Model T 100 miles an hour—something Tiffany said “generally you don’t do.” Also in January, to help kick off the dealership’s 100-year anniversary celebration, the San Benito County Chamber of Commerce named Tiffany Ford the Business of the Millennium.
February was Model A Month, and there were six Model As in the showroom (model years 1928 to 1931), one of which was actually purchased from Tiffany Ford in 1931. A seminar entitled, “Set the Timing and Save the Babbit,” was held on February 13. The February event drew the biggest crowd of the year with an estimated 75 to 80 Model As and about 200 people on the lot.
In March, the theme was Early V8s, which brought in a 1934 DeLuxe Roadster Pick-up (which was one of only 200 built and purchased at Tiffany Ford) and four other snazzy Ford V8s from 1932 to 1940. On the thirteenth of the month, the dealership hosted the seminar, “Adjusting Mechanical Cable Breaks on the Early Ford.”
April was dedicated to Mustangs, with a Mustang Rally and seminar on April 10 and six late-60s Mustangs on the showroom floor all month.
The Ford Thunderbird was celebrated in May, with a rally, a seminar and mint-condition Thunderbirds (old and new) in the showroom.
June centered on speedsters and race cars, and instead of a seminar, the dealership hosted lunch for the Santa Clara Valley Model T Ford Club’s Endurance Run and Lowland Tour. Tiffany explained, “[It’s] a big race here that’s been going on for [about] 40 years … It’s not a timed race in the normal sense. They go [a total distance of] 200 miles … and this year we coordinated [to be] their destination for lunch.”
July was dubbed the dealership’s official anniversary month, even though the actual 100-year anniversary was in April. Tiffany did this because he felt it was a better promotional month and for better weather, although he didn’t have one rainout the entire year. On July 17, the dealership hosted an All-Ford Family event, which featured all different years of Fords. “That was for all the different clubs, so it was Mustangs, T-birds, Model As and Model Ts.” Two weeks later, the dealership held a more formal anniversary gala, which was invitation-only and included Ford representatives from Detroit. Tiffany said, “Between the two [events], July was such a huge month. We decided we needed a breather in August.” Although, he did still have vintage cars on the showroom floor that month.
September – dubbed Customer Appreciation Month – was also rather calm compared to July. The dealership had a barbeque lunch for customers on the eighteenth, along with “great sales and hugs all day.”
In October, Tiffany planned events to coincide with National Breast Cancer Awareness Month. “October was kind of a special month. Ford has always been very active in breast cancer awareness. They’ve produced these ‘Warriors in Pink’ Mustangs. They have a strong tie with Susan G. Komen [Cancer Foundation], so we decided we would tie into that for the month of October.”
He “pinked” out the showroom by covering the lighting with pink cellophane, showcasing a “Warriors in Pink” Mustang, plastering the walls and windows with pink decals, and hosting the event, “This Lady Drives a Model A.” He said, “We brought in a couple ladies from the Model A club out of San Jose, and we taught 25 or 30 women and some guys – it was specifically oriented toward women – … how to drive a Model A.” After a short seminar, everybody was “bussed just north of town where we had six or seven Model As and we all … learned how to drive them.”
While registrants of the event had to pay a $5 registration fee (all the other events throughout the year were free), Tiffany Ford made a $20 donation per registrant to either the Hope for a Cure Foundation or the Susan G. Komen Cancer Foundation, depending on the choice of the registrant. Tiffany explained, “That was just a nominal sum to help [pay for] some patches and things … the Santa Clara Model A Club had to purchase.” Between the dealership’s per-registrant donations and other donations made by some of the people attending the event, he said over $1,000 was donated.
As the year winded down, he decided to stick to having a showroom theme in November and December to showcase Ford vehicles, but he didn’t have any seminars or big events. November was dedicated to Ford Workhorses. On the showroom floor was a 1926 Model T pickup, a World War II Ford Jeep, a Dryer’s Ice Cream truck, a vintage Ford dump truck, a 1968 Ford police car and a vintage Ford tractor.
Mind you, throughout the year, Tiffany still had a business to worry about, so finding the right balance between time spent on planning/executing events (on a budget) and managing the dealership was challenging at times. He said, “There was a limit on the amount of time I had to spend on it. … We did have to be careful. We’re a small dealership and business continues to be difficult, so while we’re doing this, I had to be sure we’re keeping our head above water and continuing to thrive.”
And while the events were to celebrate the dealership’s milestone, they did result in a handful of sales. Tiffany said he can point to at least six sales on the books that were each a direct result of an anniversary event, adding, “There were probably more than that. Those are just the ones I know about.” Plus, he’s now on the radar of some of Ford’s most avid fans who are in the car clubs and people who might be slightly out of his market area. “I think more importantly, we were able to develop and nurture a whole bunch of new relationships with a lot of people that would have never come through our dealership … We are a bit off the beaten track.”
He estimated, “I’m sure there were over 1,000 people last year [who came] through our dealership, probably several thousand, who wouldn’t have otherwise been here. And the great thing is virtually all these people are Ford people … They’re committed to the brand; the love Ford.” Many of them told him they’d return the next time they were in the market.
So looking back and celebrating the past 100 years helped the future of the dealership. “It’s been a great year for us. It’s been a lot of fun, but we’ve been very busy and it’s been a lot of work … It’s been pleasurable work,” said Tiffany. And just because the yearlong celebration has come to a close doesn’t mean he’s done planning events like the ones he hosted in 2010; he plans on continuing some of them. “We’re probably going to try to continue to sponsor the Model T Speedster [Endurance Run] … I think we’ll probably do the breast cancer awareness [event in October],” he said, adding that they may plan something once a quarter. “We now have a little bit of experience, so it’s not going to be quite as tough.”
Vol 8, Issue 1