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Smith Ford expands inventory, customer service capabilities with purchase of Johnson Ford dealerships

H.M. Smith Ford, Inc., of Warrenton recently announced that its parent company has purchased Johnson Ford Sales of Crawford, Ga.

The deal also includes the purchase of Johnson's location in Greensboro, which was closed two years ago and is tentatively scheduled to be reopened in 90 days. The three dealerships will operate under the "Smith Ford" banner.

The dealerships are majority owned by Capstone Auto Group, Inc., an affiliate of Capstone Financial Group, Inc., a diversified investment banking firm based in Hilton Head, S.C.

Dan Smith, a former resident of Warrenton, is the founder and president of both Capstone firms.

"Our purchase of Johnson Ford is the next step in our strategy of consolidating many small town dealerships into one organization," he said. "We have found that our customers want to deal with local sales people in a friendly, peaceful environment without the high pressure sales tactics of big-city dealerships, but they still want a large selection of cars and trucks. Now we can offer both."

He said the dealerships will take advantage of technology and allow customers to browse inventory at each dealership from one location. Also, customers can view each dealership's vehicles at

"Because of our several locations and increased inventory, we will be able to draw car buyers from a much broader geographical area," Mr. Smith said. "This same concept also applies to our selection of parts and accessories. Our customers will see a much larger inventory of these items as well."

The histories of the Smith and Johnson dealerships are long and similar. Johnson Ford Sales was founded in Crawford by Alfred A. Johnson in July 1963. Smith Ford was founded in Warrenton by H.M. Smith in April 1966, making the dealerships two of the oldest in Georgia that have remained under continuing family ownership. Johnson's Greensboro location was opened in September 1993. Alfred Johnson's son, Darryl, took control of the company in 1996. H.M. Smith's son, Dan, took control of that dealership in 2003.

Kenneth Darien and Gene Smith remain partners in Smith Ford, with Mr. Darien now having a broader role in the management of all the dealerships.

"This deal is an example of why I invested in Smith Ford two years ago," Mr. Darien said. "This type of consolidation is critically important to small dealerships. Multiple locations give us distinct advantages in the marketplace. Our increased inventory and internet presence have leveled the playing field between us and large metropolitan dealerships."

Web posted on Thursday, June 26, 2008

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