Sunday, October 07, 2001

Joseph Auto pulls into lead spot

By James McNair
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Joseph Auto Team is the biggest auto retailer in Greater Cincinnati — and now, it's the market's biggest privately held company.

        Based on its 2000 revenue of $570 million, the family-run Joseph (No. 2 on the list last year) took over the top spot on this year's Greater Cincinnati 100, as compiled by the accounting firm Andersen. The company with bragging rights the last four years, Ris Paper, was bought by Domtar Inc. of Montreal for $90 million and no longer qualifies for the list.

[photo] Joseph Auto Group CEO Ron Joseph is flanked by co-presidents Karl Stewart (left) and Dave Neiheisel.
(Glenn Hartong photo)
| ZOOM |
        Already, Joseph is looking over its shoulder at another Cincinnati auto dealer group, Jeff Wyler Automotive Family. Joseph's revenue grew 1.2 percent in 2000, while Wyler's revenue rose 38.9 percent to $525 million.

        Joseph Auto Team owns 11 stores in Greater Cincinnati and Dayton. Founded in 1938 by the late George Joseph, the company is run by his son, Ronald Joseph; grandsons Richard, Greg, George and Ron; and two officers from outside the family, Karl Stewart and Dave Neiheisel.

        The company doesn't participate in Automotive News' ranking of the top 100 dealer groups in the United States. If it did, its revenue would put it in the top 50. Wyler is No. 53 on the list, while Kenwood Dealer Group — ranked eighth on the Greater Cincinnati 100 — is No. 56.

        Richard Joseph said U.S. new-vehicle sales in 2000 eased off the industry's record-breaking results of 1999 but still made for an excellent year.

        “The last three years have been banner years for the automotive industry,” Mr. Joseph said. “We really focus on customer satisfaction and volume. We strive to make sure our customers are taken care of the right way.”

        The company's 2000 results don't fully reflect an acquisition and the addition of franchises. Joseph Auto bought Northland Porsche-Audi in Forest Park, giving the company its first line of European cars. It was also awarded a Hummer franchise for its Camargo Cadillac store on Montgomery Road and added Subaru to its Cadillac store in Florence.

        “We're always looking to add on to the manufacturers and franchises that we offer,” Richard Joseph said. “Anytime we can acquire a strong franchise, obviously for the right price, we're going to try to do so, in good times and bad.”

        Lately, times are bad for auto retailers. U.S. sales of cars, light trucks and vans fell 12.4 percent in September, putting year-to-date sales at 12.8 million units, down 5.7 percent from the first nine months of 2000, according to Autodata Corp. of Woodcliff Lake, N.J.

        Mr. Joseph said the company is enjoying strong sales of Toyotas and Acuras, not to mention sport-utility vehicles, which now account for half the sales at stores with an SUV selection. Cadillac sales are strong, he said, and Oldsmobile sales are holding up despite General Motors pulling the plug on the brand after the 2004 model year.

        Perseverance paid off for Joseph Auto in its ascent to the top spot on the Greater Cincinnati 100. In 1983, the first year of the Arthur Andersen survey, Joseph Auto was ranked 66th. It reached the top 10 in 1986 and inched its way up ever since.


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- Joseph Auto pulls into lead spot
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