General manager Roger Gandee knows what his customers want, or so it seems, as his dealership, Ramey Motors Inc., ranks as the No. 1 used car dealership in the state of West Virginia and one of the tops in the nation.

Although Ramey Motors sells new cars as well, it's the used car sales that are the multi-franchise dealership's claim to fame. On 2000's Ward's Dealer Business Top 500, Ramey ranked at 270, selling 4,779 used vehicles and 1,827 new with revenues of $44.9 million and $41.9 million respectively.

Located in rural Princeton, WV, Ramey is one of the larger businesses in a small town with a population of 7,500. James C. Ramey Sr. is the dealer principal. Gandee says many of Ramey's sales are referrals, more easily achieved in a small town.

“A lot of our business comes from word-of-mouth,” Gandee says. “We have eight satellite locations spread throughout the southern part of West Virginia.”

Ramey spends about $100,000 a month on advertising in local newspapers, on radio and television. “That doesn't sound like a lot in a metro area, but it's a lot in this area because advertising is relatively inexpensive here,” says Gandee.

He says the dealership isn't choosy about what used vehicles it sells.

“Our motto here is ‘Do the deal.’ We try to live up to that. It's kind of like a cemetery. You take what comes in,” says Gandee.

Although the economy is in a slump, he says it really hasn't been felt in his area. “It's not real good, but it's a stable business climate. We don't enjoy great big increases like folks did with dot-coms nor are we affected by the decline,” he says.

“[Business is] as good as it's ever been. I think dealers that are aggressive are still selling cars, and the ones talking about how bad it is are not selling. It's all about attitude.” As evidence of his positive outlook, Mr. Ramey says his company bought two dealerships recently.

New-vehicle franchises include Chevrolet, Oldsmobile, Chrysler, Dodge, Toyota, Subaru and Daewoo.

Ramey's best-selling used car is the Chevrolet Cavalier. The stores operates some $9,999 and under specialty lots. However, higher-priced luxury cars move, too. “Everything sells well. We sell some Mercedes, BMWs, but basically we're a meat-and-potato-type of dealership,” he says.

Despite being located in a middle class, former union town that had a number of coal mines, Gandee says he hasn't noticed an affinity for domestics models over foreign makes.

“Customers know quality when they see it,” he says.

Ramey does not market on the Internet itself, letting the automakers' web sites funnel customers to them.

“Internet users are better prepared when coming in from doing their research online and expect the dealer to make a little profit,” says Gandee.