Originally created 05/26/01

Magazine honors auto dealer

Almost every available square foot on David Karangu's Fairway Ford property, grassy or paved, has an automobile for sale on it.

Mr. Karangu, 34, said that's part of the reason his Washington Road dealership in Evans has been named to Black Enterprise magazine's top 100 auto dealers list again this year - the third in a row.

"Mainly the secret is having a great selection of vehicles and good sales people," he said Friday, leaning over the desk in his office.

The passive moment was a rare one. He can usually be found - jacket off and in motion - assisting with sales or some other function of the business.

Black Enterprise released this year's B.E. 100s earlier this month, reflective of the 1999 sales year.

Fairway Ford made $44.3 million in automobile sales in 1999. The figure improved the dealership's position on the list from No. 63 to No. 55.

The magazine's lists are based exclusively on sales figures of businesses that are at least 51 percent black-owned. Other categories include advertising agencies, investment banks and insurance companies.

No other Augusta business made the ranks.

Mr. Karangu said his dealership doesn't do fleet sales to large companies or municipalities, which would inflate the numbers; his sales are strictly to the general public.

"We would rather put more effort into that and make more money (per vehicle)," he explained.

The year 2000 accounted for $42 million in car sales for Fairway. Mr. Karangu said that should allow his business to make the list again next year.

Mr. Karangu, the president of the Augusta Auto Dealers Association, is the only black dealership owner in metro Augusta.

He said Bobby Jones Ford on Wrightsboro Road is the only Ford dealership in the area larger than his.

Having owned Fairway Ford for only four years, Mr. Karangu has made success look simple. While a sales manager for a Florida Lincoln-Mercury dealership, he noticed the business up for purchase. He took out a long-term loan through Ford Motor Credit and bought the local dealership.

Mr. Karangu doubled sales in his first year of ownership and paid off the loan in 14 months.

He said running the dealership can have its difficulties - particularly when recalls or other unexpected events occur. But last year's Firestone tire recall hasn't hurt business, he said, and he doesn't expect the next round of recalls, instigated by Ford Motor Co., to have a negative effect.

"There are two giants fighting, and we have nothing to do with that," Mr. Karangu said. "All we can do is assure people we're going to give them safe vehicles to drive."

Reach Eric Williamson at (706) 828-3904.


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