Much activity has swirled around several Toyota dealerships on the Ward's Dealer 500. One store, Longo Toyota in El Monte, CA, draws attention for a singular achievement in new-vehicle sales.

Longo, the top-ranked dealer on the 500 for the past three years, owned by the Penske Group, became the first dealer ever to almost surpass 20,000 new-vehicle sales for the first time in a single year, reaching a total of 19,763.

Longo General Manager Tom Rudnai says a monthly record of 2,511 sales was set in August and is on track for sales exceeding 20,000 units for 2004.

Meanwhile, a dealership relocation suit pitted Ward's 500 dealership Piercey Toyota, of San Jose, CA, against Fremont (CA) Toyota, located nearby. On April 22, the powerful California New Motor Vehicle Board (NMVB) upheld Piercey's plan to relocate its dealership 2.3 miles closer to the Fremont store, or 6.8 miles away. Fremont vigorously objected.

Piercey convinced the board that being closer to Fremont “would have, if any, minimal effects on competition between the two.” The ruling is considered a precedent because most franchise laws set limits of 7-10 miles between urban dealerships of the same brand.

The proposed relocation, the board ruled, “would increase competition and therefore be in the public interest.”

A third Toyota member of the Ward's 500, San Diego's Bob Baker Toyota, is in a group whose prospective sale to megadealer Asbury Automotive was opposed by Ford. The auto maker successfully argued before the California NMVB, to which Baker protested the Ford veto. Ford claims Asbury had let three of its Ford stores go down in performance and consequently was not qualified to acquire any more Ford franchises.

Toyota did not take any action on sale of Baker's Toyota or Lexus stores to Asbury, pending the outcome of the dispute over the Ford franchise sale. State courts affirmed the board's concurrence with the Ford veto.

On a brighter side for Asbury, its Thomason Toyota store in Gladstone, OR, near Portland, is in a dealership group that the megadealer reorganized in 2003. New management was installed, and the group's performance was markedly improved, according to Asbury CEO Ken Gilman.