Genthe Automotive Revs Up Saline with Historic Dealership Acquisition
In a recent move that combines tradition with new beginnings, Genthe Automotive has expanded its reach by acquiring the Lafontaine Chrysler, Dodge, Jeep, Ram dealership in Saline this past August.
The Genthe family, with over a century of experience in car sales, expects to enrich the community with their deeply rooted business acumen and commitment to family-oriented values. At the helm of this new venture is Emily May, a fourth-generation scion of the Genthe lineage and the managing partner for this latest enterprise.
“Coming to Saline, we’re not just opening another dealership,” says Emily. “We’re bringing over 100 years of experience to steer us forward here.”
In conversation with the Sun Times News, Emily May shared insights into the journey and ethos of their family business, which began with Genthe Brothers Dodge in 1916. "The Genthe family has been selling cars for more than 100 years,” she recounted. “My great-grandfather opened Genthe Brothers Dodge in Wyandot.”
Tracing the evolution of the business, Emily noted that in 1957, a pivotal shift occurred when her grandfather, who was then running the business, transitioned to a Chevrolet franchise, which laid the foundation for the Genthe’s flagship store in Southgate. Fast forward to 1984, Richard Genthe was in charge of Dick Genthe Chevrolet. He upheld the family legacy by onboarding his children, Bruce, Andrew, and Emily, in the early 2000s.
Under Richard’s tutelage, the next generation was trained to sustain and grow the family business. “We actually work very, very well together,” Emily says. “My dad trained us all well, ensuring we understood each department and the metrics behind everything. We all went to Dealer Academy to successfully run the business.”
An awareness of the statistical unlikelihood of generational continuity underscores the family's commitment to their business. "Somewhere around only 2% of third-generation businesses make it to the fourth," Emily mentioned, emphasizing her and her siblings' active role. "We were all very actively involved. We’re here day in and day out."
Despite the business's demands, the Genthe family has always been mindful of maintaining a clear boundary between their professional and personal lives. This principle has been crucial to both their familial harmony and business success. "They always tried to keep business as business and family as family," Emily explained. “We always had the unspoken rule that if we can't sit together at Thanksgiving, Christmas, or Fourth of July and enjoy each other's company and be family first, then the business wasn’t worth it.”
Their long-term success, Emily believes, is attributed to the family’s adherence to disciplined and prudent business practices. This tradition has helped the dealership weather numerous economic storms over the decades. “During the good times when things are awesome and great, you have to run the business as if you're going through tighter times,” she explained, highlighting the importance of maintaining a consistent approach regardless of external conditions. “Because if you can run it efficiently when things are great, then you're going to survive the times that aren't as great.”
As reiterated by Emily, the underpinning of their business philosophy is a steadfast commitment to integrity. "Another principle my dad instilled in us is you can’t just put in your time. You have to show up ready to work,” she added. "Always do business honestly and ethically 100% of the time. No exceptions.”
The recent acquisition was not solely motivated by business expansion but also by a heartfelt connection to the community. The Genthe family has consistently dedicated themselves to philanthropy, particularly through their involvement with "Chad Tough," a local charity. "We’ve always been highly involved with Chad Tough," Emily expounded. "We’ve been one of their Gala Sponsors since year one."
Looking ahead, the Genthes are poised to integrate more deeply with the Saline community in business and through continued charitable efforts. "Everything just kind of fell into place for us here in Saline," Emily concluded, with obvious excitement about the family’s new chapter in Saline. "This is a great community. It’s growing, and we’re excited about getting more involved."
Photos by Doug Marrin