Built Ford tough

Put 42,000 vehicles on the road and you’d have a line of traffic running from Red Deer to Calgary.

MGM Ford Lincoln Sales general manager Gord Skakun has been with the Red Deer dealership for nearly half of its 50 years.

Put 42,000 vehicles on the road and you’d have a line of traffic running from Red Deer to Calgary.

That’s how many cars and trucks have rolled off the lot at MGM Ford Lincoln Sales Ltd., by Gord Skakun’s rough calculation. And the dealership’s general sales manager acknowledged that this number — based on 70 sales a month — could be low, considering MGM has moved upwards of 140 units in some months.

The count started 50 years ago this month, when Ken McFarlane and Bob Goodacre introduced Red Deer to McFarlane-Goodacre Motors. The partners had just bought the downtown Hepworth Motors dealership.

McFarlane, an accountant, had previously been associated with a Calgary dealership. And Goodacre, a native of Red Deer, had been selling cars for about six years after a serious injury ended his short National Hockey League career.

The business prospered, and in December 1970 the two men relocated the dealership to its current location at 3010 50th Ave. The name was shortened to MGM Mercury Sales, which eventually evolved into MGM Ford Lincoln Sales.

McFarlane retired in 1980, but Goodacre remained in the showroom for another dozen years, until his death in 1992 at the age of 63.

By then his son Andy — who now owns MGM, as well as Honda Red Deer and Acura of Red Deer, with his wife Carol — had taken the wheel. But the senior Goodacre, who had always been customer-focused, had left his indelible stamp on the dealership, said Skakun.

“Andy’s very much the same way,” he said of Bob’s emphasis on customer service. “He wants people to be able to remember dealing here. He wants it to be a memorable experience for them.”

MGM is now dealing with the children and grandchildren of customers that Goodacre and McFarlane dealt with.

“It’s very heartwarming to see how many generations have went through this store, and still are very loyal customers,” said Skakun.

He also praises Andy and his predecessors for ensuring the staff continuity necessary for longtime success in the retail auto industry. Of the approximately 70 people who work at MGM, about 10 have been there 25 years or more and several have cracked the 30-year mark.

“I think that says something about the Goodacre group and the Goodacre family, being able to retain good, loyal employees, and for a very long period of time.”

Next year, Skakun will mark his 25th year with the company. Even during that time, much has happened at MGM.

“We used to sell heavy trucks, we used to sell RVs, Mercurys,” he remembered.

“At one point in time, we sold gas here. I was here when they removed the tanks.”

When Skakun started, MGM sold Ford trucks and Mercury cars. It wasn’t able to carry products like the popular Ford Mustang.

“That was a huge thing for us when Ford opened it up and let us actually have the Mustang.”

Crew-cabs, he remembers, used to be a rarity on trucks.

“Now, everybody drives their trucks as cars.”

The biggest change Skakun has seen has been the proliferation of the Internet in the auto retail business.

“We have people making their service appointments, buying parts, researching, communicating,” he said, noting that MGM has a couple staff members dedicated its online dealings.

“A portion of our sales now is done strictly through the Internet.”

Over the years, noted Skakun, trucks have been the bread and butter of the Red Deer dealership.

“That’s what this place was built on, was truck sales.”

But cars and SUVs have become an increasingly important part of its product mix. And that mix continues to evolve as Ford introduces new vehicles.

These have included diesel trucks and hybrid cars, with a broad range of innovations being added to new and existing models.

“We have some fabulous cars,” said Skakun. “The product is the best it’s ever been, and it’s just getting better and better.”

Despite the struggles of domestic auto manufacturers in recent years, he’s optimistic about the future. Part of that optimism stems from a recent survey by the RDA Group that placed Ford ahead of Honda and tied with Toyota when it comes to vehicle quality.

Even by the standards of Ford, which has been producing vehicles for more than a century, 50 years is quite an achievement, noted Skakun.

“It is a big milestone to Ford. A very limited number of dealers have reached that.”

hrichards@bprda.wpengine.com

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