Dear CADA Member Dealer:
In keeping with the past couple of years, welcome to The 102 – 2016 will mark the 102nd year that the Colorado Automobile Dealers Association (CADA) has existed to serve the Centennial State’s new car dealers and advance our common interests. As your new chairman I’m getting my bearings and working with Tim Jackson and our superior staff to set a course for this upcoming year.
I’m Fletcher Flower, the fourth generation of my family to sell Chrysler-made vehicles (Chrysler-Dodge-Jeep-Ram) in Montrose on the Western Slope. It’s my honor to serve this year and build on the successes of outgoing CADA chairman Thom Buckley. I’m excited and hopeful for 2016. Our economy is strong and the automobile business is coming off what appears to be a record year.
Although cars were in my heritage, I didn’t set out to follow in my great-grandfather’s, footsteps. I graduated from Colorado State University with a double major in computer science and finance and stayed in Fort Collins to get my MBA in corporate finance. I worked for Andersen Consulting in Denver, San Francisco and Chicago before signing on with a small Denver investment-banking firm.
My life changed in 1998 with a call from my dad who said he was thinking of selling our dealership. “Good luck,” I told him. “No…I’d like you to come and talk with me about it,” he said. After a weekend at home talking and thinking about it, I quit my job and moved back to Montrose. It has been one of the best decisions of my life. My brother Fritz was already working there. In fact, when I started in 1999, five of our 18 employees were family: Dad, Mom (phone and bookkeeping), sister (F&I) and brother (sales). Mom and Dad still come in most days when they’re not traveling, and Fritz now heads up our Subaru store down the road. Our staff has grown to almost 70 people.
Our dealership has many photos that show the history behind our business. My great-granddad and his brother, Sid and Joe Hartman, started Hartman Brothers in 1904 as a carriage and bicycle shop. They were able to land a Ford franchise the first year Henry Ford started building cars, 1908. They switched to Dodge in 1915. The first car that came into Montrose came on a railcar. The brothers assembled it and delivered it to the local physician who’d bought it. But he didn’t know how to drive, so when he wanted to go somewhere he’d call them and they’d do the driving!
One of the best stories involves the first car – one of our Chryslers – that ever drove over Red Mountain Pass. Not sure why they wanted to go over the pass, but they got to just a couple hundred feet from the top and had to stop. One of them had the idea of turning the car around and backing it over, since reverse was a lower gear than first was. It worked. They backed over, turned around and drove down the other side.
The automobile business has changed quite a bit. Chrysler went through some scary times during the Great Recession but ultimately came through it and has prospered. It’s been gratifying and rewarding working with my family in the business. My wife, Kris, and I are raising two sons here in Montrose.
This is my second time serving in CADA leadership. I was a district director from 2004 to 2007, during the transition from Bill Barrow to Tim. I have a lot of respect for what Tim and our staff have been able to do. CADA gets better and better every year. One goal I have for 2016 is to increase member involvement, especially along the Front Range. Our association has a lot to offer to all dealers, from smaller, family-owned businesses like ours to large multi-store dealerships.
CADA gets out in front of issues that are important to us all: legislative, regulatory and with manufacturer relationships. This year, for example, we’re anticipating some legislation that will help us protect our franchise investments. But it’s more than that. It’s important that as a dealership body we have interactions among the members (and their spouses!) and get to know and learn from each other.
So, I’m looking forward to meeting you, if I don’t know you already, and working together to add value to what we do and how we do it. Let’s have a great 2016 together!
Fletcher Flower, Chairman