Bartow Ford was founded in April 1948, when Ernest M. Smith and his two brothers, Virgil and Paul H. Jr., purchased the Ford Franchise/Dealership in Bartow from Mrs. Alton Moore. Originally located at 495 and 510 East Main Street in Bartow, Bartow Ford was actively managed by Ernest Smith.
During its first year of operation, Bartow Ford sold only used vehicles due to the shortage of new vehicles following World War II. Once 1949 models became available, Bartow Ford sold approximately 110 new cars and trucks in their first model year. Used cars sales from the same period equaled about 144 units, and Bartow Ford employed 15 full-time employees.
In December 1949, Ernest Smith moved operations to a newly constructed facility on 190 West Main Street in Bartow.
During the late 50's it became evident that Bartow Ford needed to expand again. In the model year 1959, Bartow Ford sales totaled 1.5 million dollars and equaled 359 new units and 310 used, supporting the need for expansion.
By the early part of 1960, Bartow Ford moved yet again, to a 3.5-acre facility on the Route 60 Bypass. With the move, Bartow Ford was the first and only company doing business on the bypass. Numerous expansions occurred during the 1960’s to include new parts and service facilities.
Ernest Smith bought the remaining stock held by his two brothers and became the sole owner of Bartow Ford.
During the late 70’s and early 80’s, Bartow Ford continued to expand. In 1978, Mr. Smith acquired a lease/option agreement for an additional 6.7 acres, adjacent to the existing facility, and in 1986 he exercised his option to the purchase of the property.
With the addition of the 6.7 acres, Bartow Ford’s facility then equaled 10.2 acres. The square footage of the additional buildings more than quadrupled the previous facilities on W. Main Street. Finally, in 1989, Mr. Smith purchased Whit’s Building Supply property and building, which was located on the Southeast corner of Bartow Ford’s property. This acquisition of the property made Bartow Ford a 14-acre facility.
Eventually, Benny Robles, Sr., Denny Mullis and Bob Ambrose partnered together and began purchasing the dealership from Ernest Smith. The acquisition process started in 1991 and was completed in 2007.
Bartow Ford moved to its current home, located at 2800 US Highway 98 North. The 32-acre facility houses all operations of Bartow Ford and includes a service and parts department, detail depot, collision center, rental vehicles, commercial service, and a quick-lane.
Bartow Ford has won the prestigious President’s Award 16 times and is also recognized as one of Ford Motor Company’s top 100 dealers in the United States for 27 years.
Ford Motor Credit announced Bartow Ford as the number one volume sales dealer in Florida for 2012. This achievement has listed the dealer on the top 25 franchises of Ford Credit’s Business Preferred Network (BPN). Bartow Ford has held this status for the last decade.
With over 200 employees, Bartow Ford continues to excel in sales and service. In this challenging economy, Bartow Ford is still a leader because we continue to operate with trust, integrity, and honesty.
Ernest Smith once said, “In order for Bartow Ford to succeed, our organization and its people have obligations which must be continually met. Our first and most important obligation is to provide total satisfaction to each customer. We are to conduct our business in such a manner that there is never any doubt about our ethics or moral standards.”