GREENFIELD — When it comes to automobiles, Ford’s longstanding history makes it one of the first names to come to mind.
In Greenfield, the same can be said for the name Inskeep.
Inskeep Ford recently turned 60 and continues in its second generation of family ownership. The dealership has seen the auto industry change over the decades and overcome obstacles from fires to near financial ruin.
Fred Inskeep started the business in July 1961. His first showroom was at the southeast corner of Main and Spring streets, where the restaurant Los Vaqueros is now located. The dealership later moved to Main Street on Greenfield’s west side, where it suffered two fires before breaking ground in 1968 at 2651 W. Main St., where it remains to this day.
Jeff Inskeep, Fred’s son and current owner of the business, was 3 when his father started it all. He recalled his dad selling the dealership in 1976 to focus on a full-service car wash he built. The person to whom he leased the dealership property set it ablaze, and Fred returned to the driver’s seat of the business in 1981, adding Chrysler, Dodge and Plymouth to the Ford and Mercury inventory at the time.
Jeff has worked in just about every facet of the business, from starting in the wash rack while in high school, to parts, service and the body shop, which he ran until 1988 before coming up front.
He started taking over the dealership in 1993, a few years before his father’s death. An employee had just embezzled about $80,000, almost putting it out of business. Jeff sold his house to keep it afloat and lived in a trailer for two years until it got back on its feet.
“It’s the rest of my life’s career,” he remembered thinking, adding he was driven to carry on the family name.
Other major changes the dealership saw over the years were adding on to the body shop and rebuilding the showroom in the early 2000s.
Jeff has watched automobiles evolve throughout his time in the family business, from the advent of fuel injection in the late 1970s and early 1980s to a multitude of technical advancements.
“Mechanics have evolved into technicians,” he said. “More or less, a lot of times, they’re computer technicians, because there’s a lot of computer equipment.”
Vehicles got even more technical over the past couple decades, and especially over the past five years, as development of electric cars accelerated. Inskeep Ford has about 15 sold orders for the electric F-150 Lightning, and about the same for Ford’s new electric Maverick pickup truck.
“I still like the combustion engine, and the horsepower over watts,” he said. “There’s nothing like the horsepower when you get in the Mustang or a car like that, and to feel that. With an electric car, it’s so quiet. It’s a big difference.”
He can’t help but respect the new technology, however.
“I got to hand it to electric cars,” he said. “They’ve got the horsepower, they’ve got the reflex, I mean it’s right-now power. They got the torque. I’m just a little bit old school and like to hear the exhaust.”
Jeff and Bridgett Davis, digital marketer for Inskeep Ford, have also experienced how online sales have changed the industry’s landscape.
“We still have the standard salesmen, and then we also have a strong online presence as well too, to grab both markets,” Davis said.
While there are exceptions, the change is mostly driven by a generational divide.
“The older generation, they want that face-to-face contact,” Davis said. “They want to come in, they want to see somebody in person, have that personal experience, put their hands on the vehicle, and build that trust in the quality of the vehicle. But the younger generation, they want something quick and efficient. They read things, they have more of a trust in something to buy it directly online, even large purchases like a car.”
“This is the way things have evolved — people buy stuff online and they’ve never even seen or driven it,” he said. “People order them online, and we don’t see them or meet them until they come here to pick them up.”
He doesn’t plan to put the brakes on his career anytime too soon.
“I want to stick around a few more years before I retire,” he said.
He wants to see through Ford’s return of the Bronco after a hiatus of about 25 years, which the dealership is starting to add to its inventory.
“We’ve got sold orders pretty much taking up all of our allocation for two years,” he said.
Other than that, it’s all about continuing to evolve with the times.
“Try and serve our customers and be part of the community, keep on doing what we’re doing,” he said. “It’s definitely a time to change. We’re investing in the future.”