Players on the WardsAuto Dealer 500 differ in many ways but share something in common: As auto retailers, they are among the best of the best.

Collectively, they sold a total of 1,373,275 vehicles last year with revenues of $45.3 billion.

Some of them, such as California’s Galpin Ford (No.4) sold many more new vehicles than used cars: 6,823 and 2,704, respectively.

On the other hand, C&O Motors in West Virginia specialized in selling used cars. It delivered 4,189 pre-owned units, 663 fewer than the new vehicles it sold.

Because the WardsAuto Dealer 500 ranks dealers by total revenues, it is not necessary to sell massive numbers of vehicles to land on the list. For instance, Porsche of Downtown LA delivered only 692 units. But because they are pricey super-sports cars, the dealership managed to place No.356.

That ranking is one better than a dealership named after a well-known NASCAR race-car driver. Jimmie Johnson Chevrolet placed No.357 with total vehicle sales of 1,592. Don’t expect to find Johnson at the San Diego store. He lent his name to the dealership owned by the Hendrick Automotive Group.  

Stores owned by entrepreneur Herb Chambers appear on the WardsAuto Dealer  500 the most often: 16.

Chambers dropped out of high school at age 17 and joined the Navy. He returned home to work in his parents’ bar. As the story goes, his mother fired him for showing up late, although Chambers says it was a misunderstanding.

Afterward, he got a job repairing photocopiers, switched to copier sales and ultimately saw dealerships as a profit opportunity.

Another self-made dealer is Norm Braman with five stores on the big list. He is a tough cookie who is suing General Motors for its programs that prod dealerships to upgrade facilities.

He is frank in giving one of the reasons he is suing: “I can afford it.”

Deep in the heart of Texas, April Ancira is a top manager in a dealership group founded by her father, one of the nation’s first Hispanic dealers. Three Ancira stores appear on the WardsAuto Dealer 500

She sees herself as more than a purveyor of cars. Fulfilling customer transportation needs is an important role in society, she says.

One of the listed Ancira stores is Ancira Kia at No.405. For a Kia store to make the list shows how far that South Korean brand has come. Same goes for Kia’s sister brand, Hyundai. Today, five Hyundai stores and three Kia outlets are on the WardsAuto Dealer 500, now in its 26th year.

Early on, the most stores on the list were Chevrolet and Ford dealerships. Those two brands would annually slug it out for most-mentions.

Now, there are 45 Ford and 40 Chevy stores. Those are healthy numbers. But the leaders are Toyota with 70 and Honda with 58.

sfinlay@wardsauto.com