Special Report

2011 Ward's Dealer 500

Since 1960, when Ed Morse acquired his first dealership in what was then sleepy Delray Beach, FL, he has been a leader in new-car sales in one of the nation’s fastest-growing states.

The Ed Morse Automotive Group’s first brands were Ford, Chevrolet and Cadillac. As Florida grew, so did the Morse network, establishing “buy Morse” credentials among locals as well as the growing flock of northern “snowbirds” acquiring second residences on the Florida coasts.

As the state population and competition increased, Morse embarked on a growth formula throughout Florida. He runs 17 stores, all in Florida except for a Mobile, AL, dealership.

Heading some of the oldest of the dealerships that sprang up in Florida in the 1960s and 1970s, he was determined to reap the benefits of establishing an early competitive beachhead.

Rather than replicate a strategy of opening showrooms offering the same brands in cities such as Fort Lauderdale and Jacksonville, he signed on for Japanese and German brands on a one-dealership-per-market basis.

Throughput, or vehicle sales per dealership by brand, has maximized revenues and gross profits to levels surpassing those of other dealerships year after year, he says.

The dream of all auto makers has been to sustain stores showing the highest throughput and profits per location, and Morse has been able to do that.

The Ed Morse group has never failed to make the Ward’s Megadealer 100. This year it is No.44 with revenues of $544.8 million for 2010. The group sold 10,109 new cars and 9,542 used.

It has nearly 900 employees and in the last two years has built four new dealership buildings and renovated seven more in Broward (Fort Lauderdale) and Palm Beach counties.

The stores have embraced the digital age, with Internet leads driving one-third of vehicle sales.