- Checkered Flag Auto Group is celebrating its 50th anniversary with a commemorative video — and a sale on its 11 brands.
- Checkered Flag got its start as a European sports-car franchise in the Virginia Tidewater region in 1964.
- The founder still comes in to the office regularly.
HAMPTON ROADS, Virginia — Back in 1964, Checkered Flag Auto was an early adopter of import brands like MG and Toyota. Now, the 11-brand dealer group is celebrating its 50th anniversary with a "50 Days of Summer" promotion.
This area on Chesapeake Bay calls itself "America's first region," so it's logical that a pioneering auto dealer started here back in 1964.
In a sentimental video created for the anniversary, founder and Group Chairman Ed Snyder said his company started when he took out a loan to buy the franchise for Jaguar, Austin-Healey and MG cars in 1964, thinking he'd snagged something great. In fact, he reminisced, "They couldn't find anyone" who was "stupid enough" to take it on.
The dealership's name, originally the Checkered Flag Motor Car Company, was his wife's idea, Snyder said. From that first bold move, Snyder built a durable business. Later, he was among the first to sell Japanese cars in this region.
Snyder attributed the dealership's longevity to his determination to build long-term relationships with customers. He told Edmunds: "I always said I wanted to sell the customer their first car and be able to say I sold the hearse that took them to the cemetery!"
Although most of his surviving original customers are elderly today and not in the market for a new car, he does keep in touch and said, "We certainly have lots of very loyal customers."
The Checkered Flag Auto Group still sells one of its original brands, Jaguar. Snyder told Edmunds he had just returned from a trip to England to see the new Jaguar lineup, calling it "very impressive. It's nice to see they're coming back very strong; I'm optimistic about the future for Jaguar."
This summer, as part of the 50th anniversary celebration, Checkered Flag Auto Group is running a 50 Days of Summer promotion.
The dealership sells Toyota, Scion, Honda, and Hyundai as well as Mini, BMW, Porsche, Jaguar, Audi, Volkswagen and Land Rover vehicles.
The dealership, with Snyder's son Steve now running operations as president, bills itself as the largest locally owned dealer group in the state of Virginia. It's even the subject of a book on salesmanship, We All Win, which is available on Amazon.com.
And Steve's dad, founder Ed Snyder, still comes into the office regularly, 50 years later.
"If I'm in town," he told Edmunds, "I'm here."
Edmunds says: Build it — and sell great products — and they will keep coming. This dealer is proof.