Digging through some old boxes, we came across a magazine containing the first Ward's 500 list. It was published in October 1987, using data from 1986. Back then, we were Ward's Auto Dealer, eventually morphing into Ward's Dealer Business with the acquisition of Auto Age dealer magazine the mid-1990s.
No. 1 on that inaugural list was Dale Oldsmobile in New York with $379.1 million in total revenue. Longowas fifth with $232 million, compared with its No. 1 ranking this year, with $661 million in total revenue. Every year that the El Monte, CA, dealership powerhouse has reported its numbers, it has ranked in the top five, placing first the last five years.
Several names on the first list are unfamiliar today, although there are some stalwarts, such as the Bill Heard organization, which has had dealerships on the list every year for all 19 years.
Bringing up the rear in 1987 was Larry's Chevrolet in Maryland with $44.8 million in revenue. Last on the list this year is a dealership with revenues of $72.5 million.